Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells.

  • Exocrine pancreatic cancer: You may have radiation therapy or chemoradiation—a combination of radiation and chemotherapy—to help cure or control this type of cancer. Chemotherapy drugs can make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation.

    If you need surgery for exocrine pancreatic cancer, you may have radiation therapy before or after the surgery. Chemoradiation may also be used after surgery to help prevent cancer from returning. If your cancer is too widespread to remove surgically, chemoradiation may be one of your treatment options to slow cancer growth.
  • Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs): Radiation therapy is not often used for pancreatic NETs because these tumors typically do not respond well to it. If your cancer has spread to other parts of your body, radiation may be used to slow or stop the growth of cancer there.

External-Beam Radiation Therapy

External-beam radiation therapy uses a machine called a linear accelerator to send beams of radiation toward the cancer. Typically, external-beam radiation therapy is given five days a week (Monday through Friday) for several weeks. The procedure is not painful, and each treatment lasts only about five to seven minutes.

Patients of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) may receive radiation therapy at these locations:

If your treatment involves radiation therapy, your radiation oncologist will determine the dosage and schedule for your treatments, will help you manage any side effects, and will work closely with other members of your care team. Learn more in the section on radiation oncology.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can cause side effects, which may depend on exactly how and where the radiation is given. Fatigue is a common side effect. Your team at SCCA will talk with you about the specific side effects you might experience, and we will help you prevent, reduce, or manage these effects as best as possible. You can find general information in the symptom management section.