Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

The pancreatic cancer treatment is very important since it is a deadly
disease. The primary treatments for the patients with exocrine pancreatic cancer can be grouped into three types:

1. Surgery

2. Radiation Therapy

3. Chemotherapy

Also biological therapy is being studied for the treatment of cancer.


The surgery is one of the best pancreatic cancer treatments. This can be
referred as one of the most common procedure used to remove the cancer of the endocrine system.

For the purpose of taking out the tumor a doctor may use one of the following methods to take out the cancer.

Whipple procedure (pancreatic duodenectomy)

This procedure is being used by the surgeon in order to remove the pancreas head, i.e. a part of small intestine also some of the nearby tissue.

The Surgeon will leave enough of pancreas to make the pancreas continue secretingdigestive juices and insulin.


In this surgery the surgeon removes the whole pancreas, part of the stomach, part of small intestine, the gall bladder, the spleen and finally most of the lymph nodes in the area.

Distal pancreatectomy

This procedure is most commonly practiced for islet cell (endocrine) cancer of the pancreas. This is rarely used for exocrine pancreas cancer. Here the body and tail of the pancreas are completely removed.

In case the cancer has spread to a wide part and it cannot be removed, the  doctor will recommend the patient to have a surgery in order to relieve symptoms. If in case the cancer tends to block the small intestine and if the
bile builds up in the gall bladder, the doctor will strongly recommend to have a surgery which will make ago-around (ie bypass) all or part of small intestine.
During this surgery doctor will cut the gall bladder or bile duct and they will
sew it to the small intestine. This is also called as biliary bypass.

Radiation therapy

In this procedure x-rays with high energy is being used In order to kill
cancer cells and to shrink tumors. In this procedure the radiation will come
from outside the body through a machine (external radiation therapy) or from putting materials that tend to produce radiation from thin plastic tubes in theplace where cancer cells are found. This is one of the best pancreatic cancer treatment methods.


In this procedure drugs are being used in order to kill the cancer cells.
Mostly the drugs are being injected into vein or muscle. Some are being given orally. This is one of the systematic treatments in which the drug tends to flow through the blood stream to nearly every part of the body – which kills the affected cells. This is generally given in cycles.

Stages Of Pancreatic Cancer

Once the doctor confirms the symptoms as pancreatic cancer, the stages of
pancreatic cancer can clearly tell the doctor how far it has spread. The scan and the tests that the patient are advised to have when diagnosing the
cancer can give brief information about the stage.


It is very important because only with the help of the result of tests doctor
will be able to give treatment based on the stage of cancer. The patient will
have to undergo more tests to find whether the cancer has spread from the
pancreas to the tissues surrounding it or to other body parts. Though there are advanced equipments for performing tests, doctors will not be able to tell the exact stage of the cancer until after surgery.

This process of testing is known as staging, and these steps help the doctor to devise a necessary plan for the patient’s treatment. Following are the stages used to describe exocrine cancer of pancreas:

Stage I

This is the primary stages of pancreatic cancer. The cancer is only inside
the pancreas region. Except in pancreas no other organs of the body is affected from cancer.

Stage II

This is the second stage of Cancer in which the cancer tends to spread to the
organs nearby, such as duodenum or bile duct. But for sure it might not have entered lymph nodes. In other words, though the cancer seems to grow locally it might not have spread through the blood or the lymph nodes which is a bit far from pancreases.

Stage III

The cancer has affected the lymph nodes too. But it might have not affected
the organs nearby

Stage IV A

Now in this stage the cancer has covered organs too such as stomach, colon
or spleen that are nearby pancreas.

Stage IV B

At this stage of pancreatic cancer, the cancer should have spread to organs
like stomach, colon and spleen that are near to the pancreas or also to the
liver or lungs which is far away from the pancreases.

Recurrent: After the cancer is being treated there are chances that the cancer can hit back (recurred) to pancreas or to the other parts of the body.

Pancreatic Cancer Life Expectancy

There is misconception in the life expectancy and survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients . In the earlier days of Pancreatic cancer it was
thought that these types of cancers cannot be cured and death is imminent. The truth is that majority of the patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer can be helped with improving the quality of the life – and also in length. Pancreatic cancer is not easily detected in its early stage and because of this has been called the “silent disease”. By the time it is detected in most people, it is too late and death will be the can be expected in 6-12 months. Thus the  life expectancy is of immediate concern to anyone who may be afflicted with this cancer.


Statistics on Survival Rate of pancreatic cancer

The following is the various statistics on pancreatic cancer life expectancy or  the survival rate around the world.

• In 1992-99, only 4% of the white people in the United States survived (Cancer
Facts and Figures, American Cancer Society, 2004)

• In 1999, the death toll in United States is reported as 29,082 (NVSR Sep 2001)

• In 1992-99, only 4% of the African American people in the United States
survived (Cancer Facts and Figures, American Cancer Society, 2004)

• The average life expectancy after diagnosis is 3 to 6 months (Media
Conference, Arizona Cancer Center and University Medical Center)

Pancreatic function tests

The most important factor which helps in improving the length of life
expectancy of the people suffering with this disease is that how early this
disease is diagnosed. The study which deals with tumors is oncology. Oncologists use several methods to diagnose this disease. These tests are called pancreatic function tests.


An enzyme linked immunosorbent assay is use to conduct the test which helps to check the exocrine status in the pancreas. Fecal elastase is compared with that of the pancreatic alastase. If the fecal elastase is lower then two hundred, then it indicates the insufficiency of pancreatic exocrine.

Blood tests should be conducted to test how well the liver, pancreas and gall bladder functions. The pancreatic enzymes, amylase and lipase will be measured while conducting this test. Dehydration and anemia effects are also tested simultaneously. There are many other tests that can help in early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. These tests help in improving the pancreatic cancer life expectancy and the survival rate.