Once cancer of the pancreas is found, staging tests are performed. These test help to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent. Treatments for pancreatic cancer depend on the stage of the cancer.
Removal of the cancerous tumor and nearby tissue may be done. Nearby lymph nodes may also need to be removed. In pancreatic cancer, surgery may also be performed to relieve symptoms. Surgeries include:
- Whipple procedure—removal of the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, and some of the tissues around it
- Total pancreatectomy—removal of the whole pancreas, part of the small intestine, part of the stomach, the bile duct, the gallbladder, spleen, and most of the lymph nodes in the area
- Distal pancreatectomy—removal of the body and tail of the pancreas
This is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be:
- External radiation therapy—radiation directed at the tumor from a source outside the body
- Internal radiation therapy—radioactive materials placed into the body in or near the cancer cells
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream. They travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are killed as well.
The use of medications or substances made by the body. They can increase or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. It is also called biologic response modifier (BRM) therapy.
Combined Modality Therapy
Most times, pancreatic cancer is discovered at an advanced stage. Surgery may not be appropriate in this case. If surgery cannot be done, then chemotherapy and radiation are offered together to prolong survival.
Surgery would be appropriate in only 25% of patients with this disease in the early stage. In these cases, the patient would benefit from surgery. After surgery, follow-up chemotherapy and radiation therapy have been found to prolong survival in some cases.
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