Radiotherapy for stomach cancer
This page tells you about radiotherapy for stomach cancer. There is information on
Radiotherapy for stomach cancer
Radiotherapy uses high energy waves to kill cancer cells. Doctors don't usually use radiotherapy for stomach cancer. But you may have it for symptoms of an advanced cancer.
Radiotherapy may shrink a large cancer and relieve pain. It is also useful for stopping bleeding from an advanced cancer. Trials are looking at combining radiotherapy with chemotherapy to help stop stomach cancer coming back after surgery.
You have radiotherapy in the hospital radiotherapy department.
You have a scan from a specialised CT scanner so that your treatment team can plan exactly where to give the radiotherapy. The planning appointment may last about 90 minutes.
You may have one treatment a day for a few days, or several treatments with a few days break between each. The treatment takes anything from 10 to 25 minutes each time. You need to lie very still.
Radiotherapy machines are very big. You lie on a hard couch to have the treatment. The machine may be fixed in one position or able to rotate around your body to give treatment from different directions. The treatment rooms usually have docks for you to plug in music players. So you can listen to your own music.
The side effects of treatment to the stomach area are tiredness, feeling or being sick, diarrhoea, reddening of the skin in the treatment area and loss of body hair in the treatment area. You may not have many side effects from your treatment if you are having it for advanced stomach cancer.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating stomach cancer section.
Radiotherapy uses high energy waves to cure cancer. Radiotherapy is not usually used for stomach cancer, although trials are looking at combining radiotherapy with chemotherapy to help stop the cancer from coming back after surgery.
You are more likely to have radiotherapy to shrink an advanced cancer. This may relieve pressure, which has been causing pain. Radiotherapy is also very useful for stopping bleeding from an advanced cancer.
Before you begin your treatment, the radiotherapy team carefully plan your external beam radiotherapy. This means working out how much radiation you need to treat the cancer and exactly where you need it.
Your planning appointment may take from 15 minutes up to a couple of hours. You will have a planning CT scan. The scan shows the cancer and the structures around it.
You lie on the scanner couch with the treatment area exposed. The radiographers will put some markers on your skin. You need to lie very still.
Once you are in position the radiographers move the couch up and through the scanner. The scanner is a doughnut shape. The radiographers leave the room and the scan starts. It takes up to 5 minutes. You won't feel anything. The radiographers watch from the next door room.
Before the planning appointment you may also have other scans, such as MRI scans or PET scans. Your treatment team can feed the other scans into the planning scanner.
Once the treatment team has planned your radiotherapy, they may put ink marks on your skin to make sure they treat exactly the same area every day. They may also make pin point sized tattoo marks in these areas.
After your planning session
You may have to wait a few days before you start treatment. During this time the physicists and your radiotherapy doctor decide the final details of your plan.
Your doctor will plan the areas that need treatment and outline areas to limit the dose to or avoid completely. They call this contouring. Then the physicists and staff called dosimetrists plan the treatment very precisely using advanced computers.
You have radiotherapy in the hospital radiotherapy department. You may have one treatment a week or a daily treatment between 2 to 5 weeks.
Radiotherapy machines are very big. The machine may be fixed in one position or able to rotate around your body to give treatment from different directions. Before your first treatment your radiographers will explain what you will see and hear. The treatment rooms usually have docks for you to plug in music players. So you can listen to your own music.
You can't feel radiotherapy when you actually have the treatment. It takes anything from 15 to 30 minutes. It is important to lie in the same position each time, so the radiographers may take a little while to get you ready.
Once you are in the right position the staff leave you alone in the room for a few minutes. They watch you carefully on a closed circuit television screen.
Our page about having external radiotherapy has a video about having radiotherapy that you may want to watch.
External radiotherapy doesn't make you radioactive. It is perfectly safe to be with other people, including children, throughout your course of treatment.
The side effects of radiotherapy depend on which part of the body is being treated. The main side effects of radiotherapy to the stomach include
- Feeling or being sick
- Reddening of the skin in the treatment area
- Loss of body hair in the treatment area
You may not have many side effects from your treatment if you are having it for advanced stomach cancer. You can take an anti sickness drug before each treatment if it makes you feel sick. Ask your doctor if you need these.
You are having the treatment to make you feel better. So it is important that the treatment itself does not make you feel worse.
Radiotherapy can cause tiredness for many people. The tiredness wears off over the few weeks following your treatment.
Find out about
For general information and support
Contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 (Open 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday)
Share experiences on our online forum with Cancer Chat
Rated 5 out of 5 based on 8 votes
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team