Types of radiotherapy

There are different ways of giving radiotherapy. We explain the 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.
  • Stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) or stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a type of very precise radiotherapy. It delivers higher doses of radiation in a shorter time. It may be an option for people with locally advanced pancreatic cancer (which has not spread to other parts of the body, and who can’t have surgery to remove the cancer), following chemotherapy.
  • 3D conformal radiotherapy also shapes the radiation beam to the cancer. It may be used for palliative radiotherapy.

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.

Speak to our specialist nurses

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

Speak to our nurses

Updated January 2022

Review date January 2024