When it comes to cancer of the pancreas, treatment depends on many factors. Factors include the stage of cancer, side effects, and the patient’s other health conditions.

According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early. If detected early, pancreatic cancer has a higher chance of being successfully treated. Even so, there are treatments to manage late-stage pancreatic cancer.

Cancer care requires a multidisciplinary team. Several doctors and other professionals work together to create the patient’s treatment plan.

The following are some of the proven treatments for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreas Surgery

Depending on the size of the tumor, surgery involves removing all or part of the patient’s pancreas. Surgeons also remove a healthy area around the tumor.

Cancer specialists call this a margin. Their goal is to leave behind clear margins with no cancer cells touching healthy tissue.

Surgery is possible only when doctors diagnosed the cancer early. Only 20% of patients have surgery. For the majority of patients, the cancer has already spread at the time of diagnosis.

After surgery, the patient recuperates in the hospital for several days. Then he or she will continue recovery at home for a month. Side effects can include weakness, fatigue, and pain.

Surgery Combined with Radiation and Chemotherapy

Cancer teams often combine surgery with radiation therapy or chemotherapy, sometimes both. The patient receives radiation therapy and chemotherapy after surgery, called adjuvant therapy.

Patients may receive these treatments before surgery to shrink a tumor. This is known as neoadjuvant therapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. A radiation oncologist will direct the patient’s radiation therapy.

The most common type of radiation treatment is external-beam radiation therapy. Radiation comes from a machine outside the body. It is the most common type of radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer. The patient receives a set number of treatments over a specified period.

Chemotherapy often accompanies radiation therapy because it can heighten radiation therapy’s effects. This is radiosensitization. Chemotherapy and radiation together can sometimes shrink the tumor. The surgeon can then remove it.

Radiation therapy’s side effects include tiredness, skin reaction, nausea, and loose stools. Most side effects diminish after treatment ends.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. A medical oncologist administers chemotherapy is. Chemotherapy moves through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body.

Common ways to deliver chemotherapy are through an intravenous (IV) tube or in the form of a pill or capsule. Chemotherapy lasts for a prescribed number of cycles with a rest period between.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

The side effects vary depending on which chemotherapy drugs the patient receives. Side effects can include poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss, and fatigue.

Chemotherapy patients are susceptible to infections. The treatment decreases the body’s production of white blood cells and platelets.

Certain drugs specific to pancreatic cancer treatment also have side effects. For example, a drug called capecitabine may cause redness on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Side effects typically go away between treatments and after treatments end.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy targets the cancer’s specific genes and proteins. Targeted treatment blocks the growth of cancer cells. At the same time, it limits damage to healthy cells.

Not all tumors have the same targets. Doctors run tests to identify the genes, proteins, and other factors in your tumor. Then they can better match the patient with the best treatment.

Keep Asking Questions

This article is a brief overview of the treatments for this challenging cancer. Whether you are a patient or a concerned family member, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your team of cancer professionals is available to answer any questions you may have.

You can also contact us with any questions you may have.

Pancreas Cancer: The Essential Treatment and Care
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