Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells while causing the least possible damage to normal cells. Radiotherapy is used less frequently than surgery or chemotherapy.

It can sometimes be used to treat pancreatic cancer that hasn't spread but cannot be surgically removed. In this situation, it can be given alongside chemotherapy to reduce the size of the cancer and keep it under control for the longest time possible.

Radiotherapy can also be given to relieve the symptoms caused by cancer (palliative radiotherapy). It is frequently used to treat pain. It acts by reducing the tumor, relieving the pressure that is causing the pain. Palliative radiotherapy is given in lower doses than those used for controlling the cancer.

Radiation Therapy Planning

Radiotherapy must be carefully planned in order to ensure that it is as effective as possible.

On your first visit to the radiotherapy department, you will have a CT scan done or you will lie down below a machine that will take x-rays of the area to be treated.

You may have small marks made on your skin (tattoos) to help the technician find the position more precisely so that the rays can be directed to this area. These marks must remain visible throughout the treatment. These are extremely small permanent marks, and you won't have these done without your consent.

Treatment sessions

At the beginning of each session, the technician will carefully place you so that you are comfortable, as you must remain still during the treatment. Radiotherapy isn't painful. During the treatment you will stay in the room alone, though you can talk to the technician monitoring you from an adjacent room.

Side effects

Radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer can cause such side effects as feeling unwell (nausea), vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue.

These side effects are usually mild and depend on the amount of treatment you are having. Your cancer specialist will advise you on how to manage these symptoms.