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What are the advantages and disadvantages of radiotherapy?

If you are offered radiotherapy, speak to your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of it. We have a list of questions to ask which might help. You can also speak to our specialist nurses about any questions 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 borderline resectable cancer and locally advanced pancreatic cancer, radiotherapy may help to make surgery possible.
  • Each treatment session will take about 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 cause side effects, including tiredness, sickness and runny poo (diarrhoea).
  • If you have chemoradiotherapy, you may get side effects from the chemotherapy. Talk to your medical team about the risk of side effects, and find out how they will plan your treatment to reduce them.
  • If you have borderline resectable or locally advanced cancer, you may have to go to hospital five days a week for several weeks for your treatment, although this may vary from person to person.

Read more information

Who can have radiotherapy?

Types of radiotherapy

How is radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer given?

Side effects of radiotherapy

Updated September 2019

Review date September 2021

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