Chemotherapy (popularly called chemo) could be effective for pancreatic cancer because it may prolong lifespan. Pancreatic cancer is fast progressing. While chemotherapy may not cure cancer, it along with radiation therapy may improve the chances of survival and result in an improved quality of life.
For patients who have been diagnosed with an earlier stage of pancreatic cancer, the average survival time is three to three and a half years long. Chemotherapy has helped some of these patients, as well as those with advanced-stage cancer (whose median survival is three and a half months), to live for 9 to 12 years. The term “median survival” stands for the duration for which half of the people diagnosed with cancer have survived.
Advances in chemotherapy and cancer tests can prolong the lifespan of almost one-third of patients with tumors deemed unfit for surgery. New chemo regimens have given a ray of hope for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.
A study observed 194 patients at the Mayo Clinic for over seven years who received chemo followed by radiation and surgery. About half of these patients were considered unfit for surgery. The researchers concluded that chemotherapy can extend the survival of such patients.
When do you need chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer?
Chemotherapy can be used before surgery (neoadjuvant treatment) or after surgery (adjuvant treatment).
Neoadjuvant treatment of chemotherapy may be used for a tumor that:
- Can be removed from the organ but is very large to entirely remove it.
- Has many nearby large lymph nodes.
- Is causing significant pain.
Chemotherapy given alone or along with radiation (chemoradiation) may help shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove all cancer at the time of surgery.
Even after undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, cancer can still return. Giving chemotherapy either alone or as chemoradiation after surgery might help some patients live longer by destroying the micrometastasis. The most commonly used chemo drugs include gemcitabine (Gemzar) or 5-fluorouracil.
Treating metastatic cancer
Surgery cannot be considered in metastatic cancers because it could be risky in patients with compromised organ functions. Chemotherapy is typically the main treatment for these cancers. It can sometimes shrink or slow the progression of cancer temporarily, which might help people live longer.
Can you refuse chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer?
A person may decide to stop chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer or refuse it entirely because of the severe side effects that come with it. However, people should accept that this choice will reduce their chances of living longer. Discuss with your oncologist to consider the pros and cons in the case of advanced cancer.
In the advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, people may instead enroll in a hospice or palliative care program, which is available in many hospitals. Palliative care is a special kind of treatment reserved for people with a terminal illness, such as the last stages of pancreatic cancer. It aims to alleviate the symptoms, as well as provide comfort and better quality of life.
Alternative practices, such as yoga and meditation, help people affected with cancer or other serious illnesses. These make them feel relaxed and enable them to take control of their situation. They can register for programs that teach how to do them effectively.
It is normal to feel isolated when a person learns of their diagnosis. To get rid of the feeling, consider joining a cancer support group dedicated to pancreatic cancer. Options are plenty. People may look for one on the websites of organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, or in their locality. Sharing your feelings and journey with people who suffer from the same condition can help you feel at peace.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pancreatic-cancer/pancreatic-cancer-prognosis
Pancreatica. Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis & Survival. https://pancreatica.org/pancreatic-cancer/pancreatic-cancer-prognosis/
Top Is Chemo Worth It for Pancreatic Cancer Related Articles
At What Stage of Cancer is Chemotherapy Used?The decision to use chemotherapy may vary depending on the aggressiveness, stage and type of cancer. Usually, chemotherapy may be used for all stages in most cancer types. Chemotherapy is a type of medicine or combination of medications that is used to treat or kill cancer cells.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells. These drugs often are called "anticancer" drugs. Chemotherapy is often used with other treatments. Coping with side effects (fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, hair loss, infection, diarrhea, constipation, fluid retention, mouth and throat problems) are important to understand when undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It is important to eat well during chemotherapy, and get the support you need both during and after treatment.
What Are the Early Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer?Pancreatic cancer does not show its signs and symptoms in its early stages. Only when it has grown large enough, it begins to exhibit its warning signs and symptoms. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), belly or back pain, unintended weight loss, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, enlarged gallbladder or liver, deep vein thrombosis or DVT (blood clots in a large vein, usually in the leg), and diabetes.
Is Pancreatic Cancer Back Pain Constant?Cancer of the the pancreas is called pancreatic cancer. Pain in the upper abdomen and back is commonly seen in those who have pancreatic cancer. The back pain is generally not constant.
Pancreatic CancerPancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor of the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer has been called a "silent" disease because early pancreatic cancer usually does not cause early symptoms. Typically, pancreatic cancer has metastasized (spread to adjacent organs, such as the liver) by the time most people receive a dignosis of pancreatic cancer. Symptoms and signs usually appear later in the course of the disease and include jaundice, back pain, nausea, weight loss, itching, and loss of appetite. Treatment depends upon the type of pancreatic cancer but may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy.
Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Detected by Blood Test?Currently, there is no blood test to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. A doctor may suggest doing a blood tumor markers test for pancreatic cancer along with routine blood tests and radiological tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Pancreatic Cancer PictureAn abdominal CT scan shows a small, vaguely seen 2-cm pancreatic adenocarcinoma (mass) causing obstruction of both the common bile duct (cbd) and pancreatic duct (pd). See a picture of Pancreatic Cancer and learn more about the health topic.
What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer in Women?The symptoms and signs of pancreatic cancer are usually common in both men and women. They are A general feeling of being unwell that lasts for more than a week or two and isn't related to an obvious cause, such as having the flu.
What Does Pancreatic Cancer Back Pain Feel Like?Pancreatic cancer is hard to be recognized in its earlier stages as its signs and symptoms may resemble vague gastrointestinal complaints. Pain in the abdomen or back is its common symptom. It is mostly intermittent initially, that is, it comes and goes. But with time, it becomes more frequent.
What Is the #1 Cause of Pancreatic Cancer?Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells begin to grow uncontrollably and form tumors within the pancreas. The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. However, doctors have identified some risk factors that increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer. These include being over 45 years old, male gender, African American race, cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, regular consumption of high dietary fats, obesity, type 2 diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, family history of pancreatic cancer, and heavy exposure to certain chemicals used in the dry cleaning and metalworking industries.
What Lab Values Indicate Pancreatic Cancer?Laboratory values can indicate pancreatic cancer, but they are not specific or sensitive for cancer of the pancreas. A laboratory blood test known as carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) is also used in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The normal range of CA 19-9 is between 0 and 37 U/mL, but people with pancreatic cancer often have higher levels. As cancer progresses, CA 19-9 levels go on increasing.