Pancreatic Cancer Overview

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Treating Pancreatic Cancer TOPICS

Radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer

Radiation therapy is treatment with high energy rays (like x-rays) to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. Having radiation is much like getting a regular x-ray, but the radiation is stronger. The treatment is not painful. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time – getting you into place for treatment – usually takes longer. Treatment is usually given 5 times a week for several weeks or months.

Sometimes the radiation is given before surgery, sometimes after. Radiation (along with chemotherapy) can also be used for patients whose tumors are too widespread to be removed by surgery. It can also be used to help relieve symptoms such as pain in people with advanced cancers.

Side effects of radiation therapy could include skin changes that look like sunburn, upset stomach, loose bowels, poor appetite, weight loss, or tiredness. Radiation can also lower blood counts and can increase the risk of serious infection.

Often side effects go away over time after treatment ends. Talk with your doctor if you have side effects because there are ways to relieve them.

Learn more about radiation therapy in the Radiation Therapy section of our website..

Last Medical Review: 08/01/2014
Last Revised: 02/01/2016