Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of methods are often used to treat pancreatic cancer. The disease can only be cured when it is detected in its early stages, so some people may choose to receive palliative therapy (which is focused on improving quality of life) when a cure is not possible. In some cases, participation in a clinical trial may be beneficial in treating this form of cancer.
At this time, pancreatic cancer can only be cured if it is found at an early stage (before it has spread) and only if the affected person is healthy enough to have surgery. However, pancreatic cancer treatments other than surgery may be used to control the disease and to help people live longer and feel better. When a cure or treatment of the disease is not possible, some people and their doctors choose palliative therapy. This aims to improve the quality of a person's life by controlling pain and other problems caused by the disease.
For purposes of this article, the term "pancreatic cancer" refers to cancer that begins in the ducts that carry pancreatic juices (exocrine cells). This type of cancer accounts for about 95 percent of all cases of pancreatic cancer.
(For information about treatment options for a less common type of pancreatic cancer, see the eMedTV article on Pancreatic Islet Cell Cancer.)
Some factors that may influence treatment options for pancreatic cancer include:
- The stage of the cancer (see Stages of Pancreatic Cancer)
- Where the tumor originated
- Whether the cancer has spread outside the pancreas
- The person's age and general health.
In general, treatment options include:
Doctors should describe pancreatic cancer treatment options and the expected results of each. Affected persons should work with their doctors to develop a treatment plan that meets their medical needs and personal values. Choosing the most appropriate treatment for pancreatic cancer is a decision that ideally involves the patient, the family, and the healthcare team.
Treatment generally begins a few weeks after the diagnosis, which will usually give the person time to talk to their doctor about their choices, get a second opinion, and learn more about the disease.