Types of radiotherapy

There are different ways of giving radiotherapy. We explain the common types used for pancreatic cancer in the UK.

Radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer is usually image guided radiotherapy (IGRT). This means you will have scans or X-rays taken while you are having radiotherapy to check that you are in exactly the right position during treatment.

The different types of radiotherapy all aim to focus the radiation on the cancer and limit the amount of radiation to surrounding organs and healthy tissues.

  • Intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) uses at least five radiation beams arranged at different angles so that the tumour gets the maximum amount of radiation.
  • Volumetric modulated arc radiotherapy (VMAT) is a type of IMRT that focuses the radiation on the cancer and reduces treatment time. It normally involves one single beam of radiation, sometimes more, delivered as the machine rotates around you.
  • 3D conformal radiotherapy also shapes the radiation beam to the cancer though is used less often.

Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) or stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a type of very precise radiotherapy. You may have heard it called Cyberknife®. SABR delivers higher doses of radiation in a shorter time, which reduces the number of treatments. SABR is not routinely available for pancreatic cancer on the NHS, and is only available in a few hospitals in the UK. You can ask your doctor more about SABR.

Clinical trials for radiotherapy

Clinical trials are medical research studies that involve patients. You could ask your doctor about any clinical trials involving radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy that might be suitable for you. We also have information about current clinical trials for pancreatic cancer in the UK.

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You can talk to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line with any questions about radiotherapy or clinical trials.

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Updated September 2019

Review date September 2021