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Radiotherapy for advanced pancreatic cancer

Men and women discussing pancreatic cancer

This page is about radiotherapy for advanced pancreatic cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Radiotherapy for advanced pancreatic cancer

Radiotherapy is not often used for advanced pancreatic cancer. But in some people it may help to relieve symptoms by shrinking the cancer. There is a maximum total dose of radiotherapy you can have to any part of the body. So if you had radiotherapy to your abdomen when you were first treated, more radiotherapy to that area may not be an option for you.

You can have radiotherapy to another part of your body if your cancer has spread. The length of the course of treatment will vary, depending on the treatment you need and where in the body is to be treated. But courses to relieve symptoms are usually fairly short.

Doctors may suggest a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiation) for locally advanced pancreatic cancer to try to shrink and slow your cancer down. Chemoradiation causes more side effects than having chemotherapy or radiotherapy by themselves, and so doctors are looking into ways of reducing these side effects.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating pancreatic cancer section.

 

Why you might have radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is not often used for advanced pancreatic cancer. Chemotherapy or surgery are used more often. But in some people radiotherapy may shrink the cancer and reduce symptoms such as pain. There is a maximum total dose of radiotherapy you can have to any part of the body. So if you had radiotherapy to your abdomen when you were first treated, more radiotherapy to this area may not be an option for you.

Radiotherapy is sometimes used when the cancer has spread to another organ in the body. Radiotherapy is given in daily doses called fractions. Your doctor will decide and discuss with you how many fractions you will need to have. Treatment to relieve symptoms may be just one or a few fractions.

 

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy together

You may have chemotherapy and radiotherapy together for locally advanced pancreatic cancer that cannot be removed with surgery. This may shrink or slow the growth of cancer for some people. 

You may have a course of chemotherapy on its own to begin with. If this controls your cancer, you may then have radiotherapy and chemotherapy together (chemoradiation). The chemotherapy drug helps radiotherapy work better. You may have this as part of a trial as doctors are still looking into the best way of giving this combination of treatment for pancreatic cancer, and to reduce side effects. In a few people, this treatment may shrink the cancer enough to make surgery possible.

 

Where to find more information

There is more about having radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer in the section on radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer. And more about radiotherapy generally in the radiotherapy section, including radiotherapy side effects. There is also a page on pancreatic cancer research in this section.

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Updated: 20 December 2012