Radiation Therapy for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays (or particles) to kill cancer cells. Radiation is not very effective in treating gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), so it is not used often. But it can be used to relieve symptoms like bone pain.

Before your treatment starts, the radiation team will take careful measurements to determine the correct angles for aiming the radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. Radiation therapy is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is much stronger. The procedure itself is painless. The treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time – getting you into place for treatment – usually takes longer. You might get radiation treatment for several days in a row.

Depending on where the radiation therapy is aimed, side effects may include:

  • Skin changes – ranging from redness to blistering and peeling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood counts

Most side effects go away a short while after treatment ends, although fatigue and skin changes may take longer to resolve. Talk with your doctor about the possible side effects and the ways to reduce or relieve them.

More information on radiation therapy can be found in the Radiation section of our website, or in Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: April 4, 2014 Last Revised: February 8, 2016

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