Pancreatic cancer spreads quietly and owing to the position of the pancreas behind the stomach, any tumors can easily go undetected during regular scans. This means that many times, doctors find patients with pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to different parts outside the pancreas. Diagnosing cancer at this stage leaves about 20 percent of patients eligible for surgery. The others may become eligible later on after treatment depending on whether it is locally advanced or borderline resectable.

Patients diagnosed with metastatic disease, which means the cancer has already spread to other organs, are not eligible for surgery. A recent study may change this after it looked at whether and when a pancreatic cancer patient can qualify for surgery. The study gave insightful information about surgery and its outcomes as such:

  • The study gave three criteria that would improve the chance of successful surgery for patients with locally-advanced or borderline-resectable pancreatic cancer.
  • They identified chemotherapy as the most effective method to use before finally getting to surgery. Increased chemotherapy rounds gave better results. Chemotherapy comes with notable side effects and not every patient will be able to handle it in high volumes. Some tumors also don’t respond effectively to chemotherapy.   
  • To check whether the chemotherapy worked, the study used PET scans and tested for CA19-9 blood tumor markers, ensuring they were at normal levels before going ahead with surgery. PET scans give a markedly more accurate prediction of response to surgery.

The results make for encouraging news for those patients that fit the criteria and can handle the voracity that comes with chemotherapy. It brings the possibility of extended lives to the fore. It is therefore important to remember that this treatment method may not be for everyone, based on the guidelines given. It would be useful to first find out whether the patient would benefit from surgery before subjecting them to an unnecessary invasive procedure.