Radiation Therapy in the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer
Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is the use of various forms of radiation (photons, electrons, etc.) to treat tumors. It is often confused with the medical specialty of radiology, which uses low energy x-ray to image patients. Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to treat patients.
A multi-step process, radiation therapy begins with your consultation, followed by a “simulation” visit, where your radiation oncologist precisely outlines the area in your body that needs to be treated, and, together with the medical physicist and dosimetrist, generates your treatment plan. Once your treatment plan is finalized, you will begin therapy for pancreatic cancer.
Two of the newest and most effective treatments used by radiation oncologists are Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT).
- IMRT is a sophisticated treatment that conforms the radiation dose to the shape of the target – in 3-dimensions – thereby minimizing dosage to surrounding normal tissue and reducing the risk of acute and chronic side effects.
- IGRT is a major change in the practice of radiation oncology. Before IGRT, patients were usually imaged (internal pictures taken) at the beginning of treatment and only periodically during treatment. Now, patients can be imaged every day, immediately prior to each treatment, to ensure that therapy is accurately delivered. In coming years, these images will potentially be used to adapt treatment to changes in the tumor and patient.
For more information, see UC San Diego’s Department of Radiation Oncology.
Pancreatic Cancer Program
UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
3855 Health Sciences Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093