Radiation Therapy to Treat Pancreatic Cancer

Radiation therapy involves using radioactive substances (i.e., high-energy rays, or radiation) to destroy cancer cells. In this treatment, special machines are used to direct radiation at the parts of the body with cancerous tumors, to destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

Unlike chemotherapy, radiation is not carried throughout the body. As such, it is known as local therapy, rather than systemic therapy. However, there are still potential side effects associated with radiation therapy.

Side effects include fatigue, localized hair loss, changes to appearance of skin, and digestive problems. Medicines and other treatments can reduce the intensity of the side effects. As with other cancer treatments, the incidence of side effects varies with patient health and the exact nature of the treatment.

Biological or Immunotherapy to Treat Pancreatic Cancer

This form of therapy involves using drugs to boost the body's natural immune response (ability to fight disease). Examples of these drugs are interferon and monoclonal antibodies, which work with the body's immune system to block the growth of cancer cells. Biological therapy can be used alone or in combination with other therapies.

Immunotherapy can cause side effects that are similar to influenza (the flu), including fever, aches, weakness, fatigue, and chills. Patients may also experience skin problems such as easy bruising or rashes, as well as diarrhea and nausea.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015