Cancer Home > Pancreatic Cancer Radiation Therapy
In cases of pancreatic cancer, radiation therapy may be employed to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used on its own to treat pancreatic cancer, or it may be combined with surgery, chemotherapy, or both. Doctors may use radiation to destroy cancer cells that remain after surgery and to relieve pain caused by pancreatic cancer. When used to treat people with pancreatic cancer, radiation therapy can result in side effects, which may include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and urinary discomfort.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. Pancreatic cancer radiation therapy is given either externally or internally. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.
For purposes of this article, the term "pancreatic cancer" refers to cancer that begins in the ducts that carry pancreatic juices (exocrine cells). This type of cancer accounts for about 95 percent of all cases of pancreatic cancer.
(For information about treatment options for a less common type of pancreatic cancer, see the eMedTV article on Pancreatic Islet Cell Cancer.)
The way in which pancreatic cancer radiation therapy is administered will depend on the type and stage of the cancer. Radiation therapy may be used alone, with surgery, with chemotherapy, or with surgery and chemotherapy. Doctors may use radiation to destroy cancer cells that remain in the area after surgery and to relieve pain and other problems caused by the cancer. Radiation therapy is local therapy, which means that it only affects cancer cells in the treated area. Typically, patients who receive pancreatic cancer radiation therapy need to go to the hospital or clinic for treatment.