Treatment options for pancreatic cancer depend on the progression of the disease, but usually include surgery, chemotherapy and possibly chemoradiation. Cancer treatment teams generally include a diverse group of medical professionals, such as medical and radiation oncologists, endocrinologists, surgeons and nutritionists. Pain management may also be an integral part of some treatment plans.
Stage I Pancreatic Cancer Treatments
Early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer increases a patient's chance of successful treatment. In cases of localized growth with minimal spread outside of the pancreas, the tumor is often removable through surgery. Doctors may recommend chemotherapy treatment before the surgery to shrink the cancer, as well as after the operation to decrease the chance of recurrence.
Stage II and III Treatment Options
When pancreatic cancer advances and spreads to nearby blood vessels, surgery is no longer a viable treatment option. Chemotherapy or chemoradiation to reduce the size of the cancer may be useful. Chemotherapy cancer drugs, including 5-fluorouracil and gemcitabine usually extend a patient's life expectancy during the second and third stages of pancreatic cancer. As the disease progresses, a patient may undergo surgery for stent placement to bypass blocked areas surrounding the pancreas. Patients are encouraged to participate in clinical trials when the trials are available.
Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer that has spread to other organs usually focuses on managing pain, but patients in fairly good health may benefit from a drug treatment known as Folfirinox. Gemcitabine is commonly prescribed, and stage IV patients often undergo palliative surgery to reduce pain and discomfort. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted therapy may also be recommended.
The best treatment plan for pancreatic cancer depends on the individual case. Patients who are diagnosed early have a broader range of treatment options, but treatment is available at all stages. A knowledgeable team of medical professionals can design a treatment plan that benefits each patient.