Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells in a specific body area . Radiation can be used in different ways to help treat stomach cancer:
When and why radiation is used
- Before surgery for some cancers, radiation can be used along with chemotherapy (chemo) to try to shrink the tumor to make surgery easier.
- After surgery, radiation therapy can be used to kill very small remnants of the cancer that cannot be seen and removed during surgery. Radiation therapy — especially when combined with chemo drugs such as 5-FU — may delay or prevent cancer recurrence after surgery and may help patients live longer.
- Radiation therapy can be used to slow the growth and ease the symptoms of advanced stomach cancer, such as pain, bleeding, and eating problems.
External beam radiation therapy is often used to treat stomach cancer. This treatment focuses radiation on the cancer from a machine outside the body. Often, special types of external beam radiation, such three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) are used. These use computers and special techniques to focus the radiation on the cancer and limit the damage to nearby normal tissues.
Before your treatments start, the radiation team will take careful measurements to determine the correct angles for aiming the radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. This planning session, called simulation, usually includes getting imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans. Radiation therapy is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is much stronger. The treatment itself is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time — getting you into place for treatment — usually takes longer. Treatments are usually given 5 days a week over several weeks or months.