Radiation Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s experts are innovators in using radiation therapy to treat people with pancreatic cancer. The technique was once used primarily to relieve pain and other symptoms of pancreatic cancer that had spread to other parts of the body. But our doctors helped to establish the effectiveness of radiation therapy to treat people at many different stages of the disease.

Our doctors will work with you and other members of your treatment team to determine the approach or combination of approaches that is best for you.

At MSK, we use radiation therapy:

  • in combination with chemotherapy and surgery to completely eliminate tumors that are contained within the pancreas and any remaining cancer cells
  • to shrink locally advanced tumors so that surgery can be performed safely
  • to relieve pain and other symptoms of metastatic disease

We use advanced tools to deliver radiation directly to tumors. Improvements in technology now make it possible to shrink tumors while limiting damage to the healthy tissues around them.

Our radiation specialists work as a team to ensure your safety during every step of your treatment. Medical physicists attend each radiation procedure to confirm that the correct dose is delivered exactly where it’s needed.

Pictured: Ellen Yorke and Karyn Goodman
New Approach Shortens Treatment Time for Pancreatic Cancer
Memorial Sloan Kettering is exploring a precise form of high-dose radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer that could shorten treatment time and potentially be more effective.
Learn more

We also take care to monitor your progress during and after radiation treatment using special imaging techniques. This helps ensure that your treatment is as precise and effective as possible. One way we do this is through a technique called respiratory gating. This method delivers radiation only during certain points in your breathing cycle, to account for the movement of the pancreas that happens when you breathe.

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)

Another advanced technology we use is image-guided radiation therapy. With the help of highly sophisticated computer software and three-dimensional imaging, we can mold high-dose radiation beams to the shape of a tumor.

Our team is also evaluating the use of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). This is a highly precise way to deliver radiation in very high doses directly to tumors. SBRT is usually given in five or fewer sessions, allowing you to return to chemotherapy or other treatments quickly.