Once a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is made, treatment begins immediately. The type of treatment depends on a variety of factors including the stage of the disease and the age and overall health of the patient. Your doctor will work with you to determine what type of treatment will best manage the disease and help to improve your quality of life.
Some of the treatments for pancreatic cancer include:
Surgery. This may be considered if the pancreatic tumor can be reached during such a procedure which is not always the case. Surgery options may include a Whipple procedure during which the head of the pancreas is removed along with part of the stomach and the gallbladder. Sometimes a part of the small intestine and the bile duct are removed as well. Other options include a distal pancreatectomy during which the tail of the pancreas is removed, often along with the spleen. A total pancreatectomy removes the entire pancreas and sometimes part of the small intestine, the gallbladder, the bile duct, the spleen, and neighboring lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy. Using drugs to prohibit the growth of further cancer cells, chemotherapy accesses the entire body through the bloodstream. This can be used as a standalone treatment or as a treatment combined with surgery or other therapies. Chemotherapy helps to treat cancer cells that may not be detected.
Radiation therapy. There are two types of radiation – external radiation and internal radiation. External radiation directs radiation beams to the cancer site from outside the body. Internal radiation involves injecting radiation into the body through needles, catheters, and other options.
Targeted therapy. The goal of targeted therapy is to use inhibitors – in the form of drugs – to stop the signals in the body that cause tumors to grow.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer – as well as other types of cancer – is best when customized to the patient, their particular diagnosis, and their overall health.