Radiation therapy for small intestine cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. It is rarely used to treat small intestine cancer because radiation can damage the intestine. Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the type and amount of radiation and when and how it is given. You may also receive other treatments.

Radiation therapy may be given to relieve pain or control the symptoms of advanced small intestine adenocarcinoma (called palliative therapy).

External beam radiation therapy

During external beam radiation therapy, a machine directs radiation through the skin to the tumour and some of the tissue around it.

External beam radiation therapy may be used to:

  • relieve symptoms of a blocked intestine (called bowel obstruction)
  • stop bleeding from a small intestine tumour
  • treat pain where small intestine adenocarcinoma has spread, or metastasized, such as the bones

Side effects

Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for small intestine adenocarcinoma, but everyone’s experience is different. Some people have many side effects. Other people have few or none at all.

During radiation therapy, the healthcare team protects healthy cells in the treatment area as much as possible. Damage to these healthy cells may cause side effects. Side effects can happen any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after radiation therapy. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after radiation therapy. Most side effects go away on their own or can be treated, but some side effects may last a long time or become permanent.

Side effects of radiation therapy will depend mainly on the size of the area being treated, the specific area or organs being treated, the total dose of radiation and the treatment schedule. Some common side effects of radiation therapy used for small intestine adenocarcinoma are:

Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from radiation therapy. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.

Questions to ask about radiation therapy

Find out more about radiation therapy and side effects of radiation therapy. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about radiation therapy.

Expert review and references