Traditional Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer

May 7th 2016

Pancreatic cancer is often referred to as a "silent" cancer, as many sufferers do not experience symptoms until the disease enters its later stages. While pancreatic cancer is often considered life-threatening, there is always hope for recovery and extended survival when treatments are implemented as soon as possible following detection and diagnosis.

Treatments for Resectable Pancreatic Cancer

Resectable cancers are typically diagnosed if the malignancy remains inside of the pancreas and has not traveled into the surrounding blood vessels. At this stage, surgical removal of the malignancy is often recommended.

The most common method of pancreatic cancer surgery is the Whipple procedure, a surgical treatment in which the gallbladder and the head of the pancreas are removed. The lymph nodes surrounding the pancreas head and small portions of the intestines and stomach are also removed. The remaining digestive organs are then reattached to the pancreas to ensure proper digestion. If the cancer is limited to a single tumor, laparoscopic surgery to remove the tumor may be recommended.

While this procedure may offer a cure for certain individuals, there is always a chance the malignancy may return. To prevent the risk of recurrence, patients may also be advised to undergo supplemental chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In certain cases, chemotherapy may be the only additional treatment needed.

Treatments for Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer

Locally advanced pancreatic cancers are malignancies that spread into the surrounding blood vessels but not to the liver or organs in other areas of the body. Surgical procedures cannot extend survival but may be recommended to minimize pressure and relieve intestinal or bile duct blockages.

In this stage, chemotherapy alone or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation is typically recommended. Chemotherapy by itself has been shown to extend the lifespan of certain individuals, while combined therapy may help to shrink the cancers or prevent the malignancy from spreading. However, combination therapy is known to cause more severe side effects.

Treatments for Metastatic Widespread Pancreatic Cancer

Once pancreatic cancer spreads to the liver, bones and distant organs such as the brain, surgery is no longer an option. Chemotherapy is usually recommended to slow down tumor growth and extend life expectancy, but it most likely does not cure the cancer. Radiation therapy and nerve block medications may also be utilized during this stage as the treatments can help to minimize pain.


Pancreatic cancer is a malignancy that develops in the pancreatic tissues. The pancreas is an organ that plays an important role in the digestive process, as it releases hormones that assist in balancing out and metabolizing sugars and enzymes that keep the digestive system running smoothly. When cancer develops in the pancreatic tissues, it tends to travel quickly and may not cause any noticeable symptoms in its early stages.

While pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths, it is treatable. Treating the disease as soon as possible can often help to extend survival rates and prevent the malignancies from spreading to other organs. Individuals who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer can make informed decisions regarding their specific treatment plans by educating themselves on the conventional treatment options for the disease.

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