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. Surgery is the only 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 1 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," has proven to lower the risk of recurrent cancer. Typically 6 months of adjuvant chemotherapy is recommended, sometimes with radiation incorporated into the 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 who are amenable to surgery, only 20% live 5 years.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Helen, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: March 02

My husband of 30 years is alive and very well today after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis at the age of 37. We were told at the time he would not see his 38th birthday. He is now 55 years old. At the time of his diagnosis, only one surgeon was willing to help us as all our other avenues told us it was too late. After surgery, my husband elected not to have any chemo or any other radiation therapy. He battled for 12 months in recovery and slowly but surely he regained enough strength to go back to work full-time, very rarely having a sick day off. We were given a 1% chance of having anymore children and now have a grand 16-year-old boy. He has remained cancer-free to this day. When he is asked why he thinks he survived, he says, "It's all in the mind."

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Comment from: Not my time, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: December 20

I was lucky. My cancer was found very early. The only symptom I had was I "turned yellow". Since I had no pain the doctors started looking for cancer. I had Whipple procedure performed on me in Feb 2012, went through 6 months of chemotherapy and radiation. I did not experience any side effects from the chemotherapy or radiation. I kept a positive attitude throughout. The ordeal was very hard on my family; I was along for the ride. I now understand I am one of the few that has beaten the odds (2 years to the good and counting). All I can say is, in Feb 2012, it was not my time!

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