Pancreatic Cancer (cont.)
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Methods of treatment
People with pancreatic cancer may have several treatment options. Depending on the type and stage, pancreatic cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Some patients have a combination of therapies.
Surgery may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
The surgeon may remove all or part of the pancreas. The extent of surgery depends on the location and size of the tumor, the stage of the disease, and the patient's general health.
Sometimes the cancer cannot be completely removed. But if the tumor is blocking the common bile duct or duodenum, the surgeon can create a bypass. A bypass allows fluids to flow through the digestive tract. It can help relieve jaundice and pain resulting from a blockage.
The doctor sometimes can relieve blockage without doing bypass surgery. The doctor uses an endoscope to place a stent in the blocked area. A stent is a tiny plastic or metal mesh tube that helps keep the duct or duodenum open.
After surgery, some patients are fed liquids intravenously (by IV) and through feeding tubes placed into the abdomen. Patients slowly return to eating solid foods by mouth. A few weeks after surgery, the feeding tubes are removed.
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. A large machine directs radiation at the abdomen. Radiation therapy may be given alone, or with surgery, chemotherapy, or both.
Radiation therapy is local therapy. It affects cancer cells only in the treated area. For radiation therapy, patients go to the hospital or clinic, often 5 days a week for several weeks.
Doctors may use radiation to destroy cancer cells that remain in the area after surgery. They also use radiation to relieve pain and other problems caused by the cancer.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Doctors also give chemotherapy to help reduce pain and other problems caused by pancreatic cancer. It may be given alone, with radiation, or with surgery and radiation.
Chemotherapy is systemic therapy. The doctor usually gives the drugs by injection. Once in the bloodstream, the drugs travel throughout the body.
Usually chemotherapy is an outpatient treatment given at the hospital, clinic, doctor's office, or home. However, depending on which drugs are given and the patient's general health, the patient may need to stay in the hospital.