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What are the advantages and disadvantages of radiotherapy?

Speak to your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer to help you decide if it’s the right option for you. We have a list of questions to ask which might help. You can also speak to our specialist nurses about any questions or concerns by calling our free Support Line.

What are the advantages?

  • The main advantage of radiotherapy is that it may help to control the growth of the cancer.
  • For a small number of people with locally advanced pancreatic cancer and borderline resectable cancer, radiotherapy may make surgery possible. 
  • Each treatment session will take about 10-30 minutes and you won’t usually need to stay in hospital.
  • You may be able to carry on with your daily life, such as going to work, if you feel up to it.
  • If you have advanced cancer, radiotherapy can help control symptoms and relieve pain.

What are the disadvantages?

Radiotherapy can sometimes damage organs that are close to the pancreas – such as the stomach, bowel, liver and kidneys. This can cause side effects. If you have chemoradiotherapy, you may get more side effects, caused by the chemotherapy. Talk to your medical team about the risk of side effects, and find out more about how they will plan your treatment to reduce them. 

If you have locally advanced cancer, you may have to go to hospital five days a week for several weeks, during your treatment, although this may vary from person to person.

Types of radiotherapy

Clinical trials for radiotherapy

Who can have radiotherapy?

How will I have radiotherapy?

Side effects of radiotherapy

Looking after yourself during radiotherapy

Check-ups after radiotherapy

Published July 2017

Review date July 2019

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