How is Pancreatic Cancer Treated?

Treatment of pancreatic cancer depends on its type and the stage. Early-stage pancreatic cancer may be removed surgically with the goal of curing the patient. The most common surgery is called the Whipple Procedure.  This is the surgical resection for a tumor in the head of the pancreas and entails the removal of a portion of the pancreas, the gall bladder, the duodenum (small intestine) and part of the stomach. Generally, surgical resection is only possible in 20 percent of pancreatic cancer cases.4 In those cases, surgical resection has a median survival of 15 to 25 months and a 15 percent to 20 percent long-term survival rate.4-6  Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or radiosurgery can be used to treat patients whose disease is more advanced. In these cases, chemotherapy combined with concurrent standard radiation therapy typically results in a median survival of eight to 12 months.7 At the end stages of the disease, medicine, limited surgeries and other therapies may be used to treat the pain, obstruction of the bile duct and hormonal consequences of pancreatic cancer.3  Radiation therapy alone, or in conjunction with chemotherapy, has been shown to provide some pain control at this stage, with 35 percent to 65 percent effectiveness.6