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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Treating pancreatic cancer with radiotherapy

Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high-energy x-rays which aim to destroy as many cancer cells as possible, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.

Radiotherapy may be used to treat cancer of the pancreas which has not spread but cannot be removed by surgery. In this situation it is sometimes used together with chemotherapy to shrink the cancer and keep it under control for as long as possible. Radiotherapy is also sometimes given to relieve pain.

Radiotherapy is given in the hospital radiotherapy department. How the treatment is given can vary a lot, depending on your particular needs. Sometimes a single treatment is all that is needed, but usually a course of therapy is given in daily sessions from Monday to Friday, with rests at the weekends. Each session lasts only a few minutes. The course of treatment may last for a number of weeks. Your doctor will discuss your treatment with you in detail beforehand.

Marks may be drawn on your skin to help the radiographer, who gives you your treatment, to position you accurately and to show where the rays are to be directed. These marks must stay visible throughout your treatment but they can be washed off once your course is over. At the beginning of your radiotherapy you will be told how to look after the skin in the area to be treated.

Before each session of radiotherapy the radiographer will position you carefully on the couch, either sitting or lying, and make sure that you are comfortable. During your treatment, which only takes a few minutes, you will be left alone in the room but you will be able to talk to the radiographer, who will be watching you carefully from the next room. Radiotherapy is not painful but you have to be still for a few minutes while your treatment is being given.

The radiographer watches on a monitor while treatment is given
The radiographer watches on a monitor while treatment is given

Radiotherapy for cancer of the pancreas can cause side effects such as feeling sick (nausea), vomiting, diarrhoea and tiredness. These side effects can be mild, or more troublesome, depending on how much treatment you are having. Your cancer specialist will be able to advise you what to expect.

Via: http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk

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