Pancreatic Cancer - Effective Treatments

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What kinds of treatments have been effective for your pancreatic cancer?

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What is the treatment for resectable pancreatic cancer?

If a pancreatic cancer is found at an early stage (stage I and stage II) and is contained locally within or around the pancreas, surgery may be recommended (resectable pancreatic cancer). Surgery is the only potentially curative treatment for pancreatic cancer. The surgical procedure most commonly performed to remove a pancreatic cancer is a Whipple procedure (pancreatoduodenectomy). It often comprises removal of a portion of the stomach, the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), pancreas, bile ducts, lymph nodes, and gallbladder. It is important to be evaluated at a hospital with lots of experience performing pancreatic cancer surgery because the operation is a big one and evidence shows that experienced surgeons better select people who can get through the surgery safely and also better judge who will most likely benefit from the operation. In experienced hands, mortality from the surgery itself is less than 4%.

After the Whipple surgery, patients typically spend about one week in the hospital recovering from the operation. Complications from the surgery can include blood loss (anemia), leakage from the reconnected intestines or ducts, or slow return of bowel function. Recovery to presurgical health often can take several months.

After patients recover from a Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer, treatment to reduce the risk of the cancer returning is a standard recommendation. This treatment, referred to as "adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy)," has proven to lower the risk of recurrent cancer. Typically 6 months of adjuvant chemotherapy is recommended, sometimes with radiation incorporated into the treatment plan.

Unfortunately, only about 20 people out of 100 diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are found to have a tumor amenable to surgical resection. The rest have tumors that are too locally advanced to completely remove or have metastatic spread at the time of diagnosis. Even among patients whose cancers are amenable to surgery, statistical data suggest that only 20% live 5 years. Most pancreatic cancer patients do not qualify for a pancreas transplant because of their advanced disease; most pancreas transplants are done in patients with diabetes that results from the removal of the endocrine portion of the pancreas.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: noPCme, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: December 01

I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year and a half ago. I was given no chance of survival, 3 to 6 months, and inoperable. I was advised to call the right-to-die people, to not bother with an oncologist as it would do no good. Well, here I am today, my inoperable tumor removed, and cancer-free. I received experimental immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation, and the Whipple surgery. I also practiced self-hypnosis, visualization, and prayer, (and have a very strong will to live). My advice, take courage, take hope, some of us do survive, and new treatments are being developed that can offer a real cure. And never let medical professionals needlessly frighten you with dire prognosis! If I had listened and done nothing, I would have died a year ago. Remember there is mystery to life, mind, and spirit; we are so much more than a scary disease. Take heart!

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Comment from: Christie, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: December 29

I have just been diagnosed with strep throat. This is my 2nd time in years. It is certainly the worst feeling ever. My throat felt as if it was on fire and my ears hurt and I had a fever. I had to go to the emergency room at 5:30 am. They gave me Keflex and advised not to go to work, to take ibuprofen, drink lots of fluids and rest. It was so painful to swallow I wanted to cry every time I tried

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