A pancreatic cancer diagnosis is devastating news for anyone to receive. It is a very difficult cancer to detect early and therefore has a very low survival rate. However, there are treatments that can offer hope for a cure or extend your life by preventing the spread to other parts of the body. The top treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and alternative treatments. Only doctors can help patients decide which treatments are right for them, but these are the most common treatments used in both curative or palliative care plans. Read on to learn more about the treatment options for pancreatic cancer.
Top 4 Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Options
- Radiation Therapy
- Alternative Therapy
Surgery to Remove the Cancer
If still a viable option once the cancer is discovered, your doctor may treat with surgery. The surgery for pancreatic cancer is called a Whipple procedure. The surgery involves removing the large part of the pancreas next to the small intestine. In addition, the surgery involves removing part of the small intestine, gallbladder and often part of the stomach. One can expect the surgery to last between 5 to 8 hours. The stomach will typically start working again seven to 10 days after surgery; however, in the case that it takes longer your doctor may choose to supplement feeding with a tube. One of the more serious complications is leakage where the pancreas was reattached to the intestine. The Whipple procedure is well known for extending pancreatic cancer patients life and in some cases serves as a cure.
- Surgery isn’t always possible.
- Best chance to remove early stage growths.
- Lengthy rehab sometimes required.
Chemotherapy to Attack the Cancer Cells
Chemotherapy is another top tool that doctors have as part of the treatment for pancreatic cancer. Chemotherapy is the process of using drugs to prevent the cancer cells from dividing and spreading. There are currently four drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Chemotherapy is administered orally or through the bloodstream intravenously. Most chemotherapy regimens are administered through an outpatient program at the hospital or doctor’s office although in some cases a hospital stay might be necessary. Due to the fact that the drugs are designed to attack the cancerous cell, they also attack healthy cells which can cause side effects. Some of the side effects reported by patients are fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and mouth sores. Doctors will need to pay attention to the side effects and make sure the benefits are outweighing the side effects. The benefits one can expect to gain from the chemotherapy really depends on the stage of cancer of the patient and whether or not they respond positively to the treatment,
- Can kill cancer cells that have spread.
- Most common form of cancer treatment.
- Often causes serious side effects.
Radiation to Shrink the Tumor
Doctors can also use radiation to try and treat pancreatic cancer. Radiation uses energy waves to prevent the tumor from growing and spreading and in some cases even shrinking the tumor. Radiation is considered a local treatment because it is focused on a particular area and there is external beam radiation and internal radiation. External radiation , which is the more commonly used radiation treatment, uses a machine outside the body that directs a beam or multiple beams at the skin and targets the tumor area through the skin. Internal radiation treatment implants radioactive material inside the body near the tumor. Radiation treatment is an outpatient program that typically occurs 5 days a week for 2-5 weeks. Side effects include loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea and mild irritation around the targeted area. Radiation is used on inoperable tumors or to shrink tumors prior to surgery.
- Radiation therapy is often used with other treatments.
- Good for treating a region of the body.
- Can shrink the size of tumors.
Alternative to Traditional Treatments
Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates because it is difficult to catch early. As a result, many patients must turn to alternative treatments in conjunction with a more traditional approach. One of the treatments patients turn to is acupuncture. Acupuncture is an old medicine which uses needles to get the nervous system to release hormones and chemicals into the body to promote healing. Acupuncture is typically used to help many of the cancer treatment side effects like fatigue , nausea, and loss of appetite.
- Alternative treatments can help with pain management.
- Accupuncture is a common pain management therapy.
Only your doctor can help you come up with an appropriate treatment plan to try and beat pancreatic cancer based on the stage of cancer and your particular circumstances. These four treatment options are among the most common courses of action.