Surgery is the main treatment for pancreatic cancer. The goal is to take out as much of the cancer while saving as much of the pancreas and how it works. Other methods may help prevent the spread of cancer or to keep it from coming back. Many times, this will involve more than one method. It will be based on the type of cancer, your age, health, and prognosis.
Pancreatic cancer is mainly found in later stages. Treatment may focus on palliative care or easing cancer symptoms. This will let you keep as good a quality of life as you can. Treating late stage cancer will be hard on you. You need to have an honest talk about the risks and benefits of treatment. The 5-year survival rate depends on the stage, but even stage 1 cancers have an average survival rate of about 30%. Most deaths happen within the first year of diagnosis. Talk to your doctor about counseling or support groups. They will help you and your family.
You will have a healthcare team made up of doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, and other health professionals. You will need to stay in touch with this team and stick with your treatment plan. Go to any scheduled appointments.
Pancreatic cancer is treated with:
Treatments for many cancers are always changing. Some have yet to be found. As a result, clinical trials exist around the world. You may wish to ask your doctor if you should enlist in a clinical trial. You can find out about them at the US National Institutes of Health website.
Cancer stats facts: Pancreas cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/pancreas.html. Accessed October 3, 2020.
De La Cruz MD, Young AP, Ruffin MT. Diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(8):626-632.
Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pancreatic-adenocarcinoma. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Treating pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/treating.html. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP