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Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a type of radiation therapy that is sometimes used to treat patients with pancreatic cancer. During SBRT, several narrow beams of radiation are delivered to small, well-defined tumors over the course of five days. In order for a pancreatic cancer patient to safely receive SBRT, the tumor must remain absolutely still. The machine delivering the radiation therapy must also be able to adjust for any movement of the tumor due to the patient’s breathing. To accurately track the movement of the tumor while the therapy is being delivered, small metallic seeds may be planted near the tumor prior to treatment. Other times, the patient may be outfitted with a device to keep their body perfectly still.

When is stereotactic body radiotherapy used to treat pancreatic cancer?

SBRT is often used to treat patients with pancreatic cancer when the cancer has not metastasized (spread) beyond its original site. In other instances, this form of treatment may be used following surgery to destroy any cancer cells that are left behind. However, due to the intensity of stereotactic body radiotherapy, a patient must first be deemed healthy enough to withstand the treatment.

What are the side effects of SBRT for pancreatic cancer?

While receiving stereotactic body radiotherapy is typically not painful, patients may experience a number of side effects. Common side effects of SBRT include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

Pancreatic cancer patients receiving stereotactic body radiotherapy should report all side effects promptly to their physician. In many cases, medication can be prescribed to lessen the severity of these side effects.

Can radiotherapy cure pancreatic cancer?

Generally speaking, pancreatic cancer patients only go into remission following surgery to remove the entirety of their tumor. If radiotherapy is the only form of treatment a patient receives, it is unlikely that the cancer will be cured. However, along with other forms of treatment and supportive care, many patients with pancreatic cancer can improve their prognosis as well as their quality of life.

If you would like to speak with a Moffitt physician about your pancreatic treatment options, including stereotactic body radiotherapy, request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required to come to Moffitt.

Pancreatic Cancer