Radiotherapy for advanced pancreatic cancer

Radiotherapy treats pancreatic cancer by using x-rays to kill cancer cells or injure them so they cannot multiply. These x-rays can be targeted at cancer sites in your body.

Radiotherapy is usually used in combination with chemotherapy (chemoradiation) to treat locally advanced cancers, i.e. cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas and cannot be removed with surgery. Radiotherapy may also be given after surgery for early-stage cancer to reduce the risk of cancer recurring.

Radiotherapy may also be used to relieve symptoms such as pain caused by tumours that may be pressing on a nerve or another organ. Radiotherapy is rarely used to treat pancreatic NETs.

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How radiotherapy is given

Treatment is usually given Monday to Friday, for up to five or six weeks. Each session takes 10–15 minutes. Treatment is painless and planned to do as little harm as possible to healthy body tissue.

Side effects of radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can cause temporary side effects, including:

  • tiredness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • poor appetite
  • skin irritation.

Ask your doctor about the best ways to manage these side effects. For more on radiotherapy call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for a free copy of Understanding Radiotherapy, or download a digital copy from this page.

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Video: What is radiotherapy?

Watch this short video to learn more about radiotherapy.

This information was last reviewed in February 2016.
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