Although pancreatic cancer is a difficult one, there are treatment options:
If the cancer is detected early, surgery can remove all or part of the pancreas depending on the tumor’s size and location. Laparoscopy of the abdomen can determine if cancer has spread. If it has, surgery is generally not recommended.
For operable cancers located in the head of the pancreas, the doctor may perform a Whipple procedure which removes the head and part of the small intestine.
If the cancer is located in the tail of the pancreas, the surgeon will remove the tail and body of the pancreas as well as the spleen.
If the cancer has spread throughout the pancreas, it will require removal of the entire pancreas, part of the small intestine, a portion of the stomach, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, and the spleen.
There are a number of radiation therapies available. Traditional radiation is the most common. Others such as Cyberknife or Proton Beam Therapy may not be appropriate for every person.
Chemotherapy is also used to treat pancreatic cancer. First-line chemotherapy is the first drug used. If it proves to be ineffective, a second drug may be tried. Off-label use refers to treatment by a drug not specifically FDA approved for pancreatic cancer but which research shows may work.
Targeted therapy takes into account the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment to block the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Other options include immunotherapy and clinical trials.