Radiation Therapy for Small Intestine Cancer

NYU Langone doctors may recommend radiation therapy to manage some small intestine tumors. This therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells.

Doctors may use radiation therapy after surgery to remove tumors in the duodenum and nearby cancerous lymph nodes. Radiation therapy helps destroy any remaining cancer cells.

Radiation therapy may also be used to shrink small intestine tumors in people who cannot have surgery because the cancer is too advanced. This helps relieve pain and pressure on surrounding tissues.

Treatment Planning

Radiation oncologists use special CT scans of the small intestine tumor area and nearby tissue and organs in conjunction with computer-based treatment planning software. The result is a three-dimensional image of the treatment area and surrounding organs. This information helps your doctors determine how best to target the cancer and spare healthy tissue.

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy

Doctors may use CT scans during treatment sessions to ensure the radiation therapy precisely targets the small intestine tumor while avoiding other important organs. This approach, called image-guided radiation therapy, helps compensate for the natural moving and shifting of organs during treatment.

Types of Radiation Therapy

NYU Langone doctors typically use external beam radiation therapy, which is delivered by a machine called a linear accelerator. The machine rotates around your body during therapy to focus radiation beams to the tumor. Sessions are usually once daily, five days a week, for several weeks. Total treatment time may vary.

Radiation oncologists can discuss which type of radiation therapy and treatment schedule is best for you.

Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy

Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy allows doctors to deliver radiation beams tailored to the size, shape, and location of the tumor, sparing healthy tissue and reducing the risk of side effects. Using the linear accelerator, the oncologist aims radiation beams at the tumor from different directions.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

Intensity modulated radiation therapy is more targeted than the three-dimensional conformal approach. It allows doctors to divide treatment into many small, computer-controlled beams of different strengths. Together, these beams closely conform to the size, shape, and location of the small intestine tumor.

Doctors can adjust the radiation dose within millimeters to spare surrounding healthy tissue. This approach may enable doctors to use higher doses of radiation therapy.

Managing the Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

NYU Langone doctors carefully target radiation therapy to avoid side effects. However, people may sometimes experience temporary skin irritation, fatigue, nausea, gassiness, cramping, and decreased appetite. Rarely, radiation therapy may cause an ulcer, which is an open sore, in the intestine.

Doctors can prescribe topical medications to manage skin irritation and medications to alleviate nausea and gassiness. They may also recommend nutritional changes and physical activity to manage fatigue. Medications and surgery may be needed to manage ulcers.

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