What Happens During External Beam Radiation Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer
For this treatment, you’ll talk with a doctor who specializes in both cancer and radiation, called a radiation oncologist. This doctor will tell you what type of radiation you need, at what dose, and for how long. During your visit, ask what you can expect to feel during and after the treatment.
You can receive external beam radiation treatment (EBRT) as an outpatient. This means you’ll get the treatment at a hospital or clinic, but you will not have to spend the night. Usually, you’ll receive treatment five days a week. The treatment will continue for several weeks, depending on the type and dose of EBRT you need.
External radiation usually comes from a machine called a linear accelerator.
Types of EBRT
These are the three kinds of EBRT commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer:
Standard EBRT. This type of EBRT directs radiation at your pancreas from one direction. You lie on a table while the machine is placed over you. The experience is much like that of getting an X-ray, only it lasts longer. It takes about 30 minutes for the whole process. You will actually get radiation for only about five minutes of this time.
Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT). This type of EBRT directs radiation at your pancreas from several directions. Imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET), are used along with computers to develop a very specific location for aiming the radiation for treatment. 3D-CRT may be best for you if you have an advanced stage of cancer, meaning the cancer has spread. Some types of 3D-CRT use higher doses of radiation for shorter periods of time. Other types use protons instead of regular photon radiation. Both of these variations reduce the damage to healthy tissue. Each treatment only lasts a few minutes.
Preparing for External Radiation
Before your first radiation treatment, you’ll have an appointment to plan exactly where on your body the radiation beam needs to be directed. This process is called simulation. The appointment may take up to two hours. Here’s what you can expect to happen during simulation: