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: 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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Comment from: 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: May 23

I had an operation in 2009 for pancreatic cancer (PC), the tail of the pancreas and spleen were removed, out of 4 lymph nodes in the spleen, 2 were cancerous. I was told I have a 7% chance of making it 5 years, this September will be five years. I also have breast cancer not related to PC. This month marks my 5th year, I am now a breast cancer survivor. Since day one I have been experiencing stomach pain and throwing up, no matter what they do it stays with me. I had chemotherapy and radiation together, 25 radiation treatments and one year of chemotherapy. I just want to be able to lie down without getting sick to my stomach. The doctors are really great but nothing works.

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