4 Treatments For Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. It starts off in the pancreas which is located behind the stomach. Pancreas produces digestive fluids and insulin for our body, which helps with digestion and sugar metabolism.

Since pancreatic cancer is hard to diagnose at an early stage, it often progresses to the extent where it affects other body parts. If the cancer cells grow too large, they can even restrict the ducts from functioning.

Choosing The Right Treatment

The treatment of pancreatic cancer depends upon how far the cancer has spread, its location, stage and type. Doctors determine the treatment based on the imaging studies, state of wellbeing of the affected person and surgical findings including the patient’s age. The stage of the cancer is determined by how widely the cancer has spread and how advance is the stage.

Determining the stage of cancer is little difficult in pancreatic cancer. Though CT scan and ultrasound helps in providing some information, but determining how far the cancer has spread often requires surgery. Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to treat. Often the cancer is not diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage. And at the advanced stage, it becomes very difficult to cure. As with other cancers, the early detection makes its easier to treat and cure.

Treatment Goal

The focus of treatment of pancreatic cancer remains on eliminating the entire cancer. But since the disease is rarely caught at an early stage, this is not usually the right option. The next choice for the medical professionals now becomes to make an attempt to restrict the tumor in the pancreas from growing in size and from spreading to other parts of the body. If this line of treatment is not successful, then the doctors aim at providing relief to the patient from the symptoms and make the patient as comfortable as possible.

Types Of Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer

Surgery For Getting Rid Of Cancer


With the help of a CT scan and ultrasound, doctors try to determine whether removal of the tumor is possible or not. If it is possible, a complicated surgery is done to remove the cancer from the pancreas. For surgery, the patient needs to be fit.If the cancer is at an advanced stage, operation will not cure the patient. Unless there is possibility of removing all the cancer, there is no benefit in taking risk as the cancer may come back again.In most cases, except when the disease is diagnosed at its early stage, surgery for removal of the cancer does not work.  Whipple procedure is used when the tumor is found on the head of the pancreas.

The entire gallbladder, the head of the pancreas, a portion of bile duct and a part of small intestine are removed. The surgery is complicated and involves many side effects like bleeding and infection and lasts for many weeks. Another surgery known as pancreatectomy is done to remove the tail end of the pancreas to remove the cancerous tumor. This is also a major surgery and involves various risks and side effects like infection and bleeding.

Surgery For Relieving Symptoms


Sometimes surgery is carried out to relieve the symptoms like blockage in your bile duct or duodenum, which causes symptoms of jaundice.  Often doctors use stent (a small tube) to relieve patient from blockage. They put a stent into the blocked duodenum or bile duct to keep it open.

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Chemotherapy For Cancer Of The Pancreas


Since pancreatic cancer is usually caught at an advance stage, chemotherapy is given to relieve the patient from painful symptoms. It is administered to kill the cancer cells in the pancreas. Powerful drugs are used and often radiation therapy is also given along with chemotherapy.

According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), chemotherapy should be given as the very first treatment. One of the drugs that are used in chemotherapy is Gemcitabine. But coping with this treatment requires you to be strong enough because it comes with side effects like nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

Radiotherapy For Cancer Of The Pancreas

Radiotherapy For Cancer

Though radiotherapy is used less often than chemotherapy and surgery for treating pancreatic cancer, but in some cases radiotherapy is used alone or in combination with chemotherapy to shrink the tumor or to treat advanced cancers that is not possible to remove with surgery.

High-energy radiation beams are used to kill the cancer cells. The duration of the therapy lasts for few minutes each time. It is done either with external radiation machine or sometime implanted in the cancerous region of your body. Radiation therapy can also have side effects like fatigue, diarrhea, nausea and skin irritation.

4 Treatments For Pancreatic Cancer

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