Treatment for pancreatic cancer
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on:
- the stage and grade of the cancer
- the position of the cancer in the pancreas
- your general health and preferences
For many people their main treatment is chemotherapy to control the cancer and to relieve symptoms. There are also other treatments and things that can be done to control symptoms and help you to feel better.
Your doctor may explain your treatment based on whether surgery:
- can remove the cancer (resectable)
- cannot remove the cancer (unresectable).
This will depend on the stage of the cancer and also on your general health.
For some people it may cure the cancer. But it is a major operation. It is only suitable for a small number of people who are fit enough. You may have chemotherapy after surgery or sometimes before surgery to shrink the tumour. It may be given as part of a cancer research trial.
You may have chemotherapy first to shrink the tumour. The surgeon then decides if an operation is possible. If it is not, you will continue to have treatment with chemotherapy.
If the cancer is causing a blockage in the bile duct or the bowel, surgery is sometimes used to relieve symptoms.
You may need treatments to relieve jaundice or other symptoms caused by a blocked bile duct or bowel. There are different drugs and treatments that can be used to control any pain or other symptoms. This is called supportive care.
You can read more about this in our information about controlling the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our pancreatic cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
British Society of Gastroenterology. Guidelines for the management of patients with pancreatic cancer peri-ampullary and ampullary carcinomas. 2005.
European Society for Medial Oncology. Cancer of the pancreas: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2015. 26 (Supplement 5): v56 to v68.
Fernandez-del Castillo. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging of exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate online. Jan 2018.
Fernandez-del Castillo C, et al. Supportive care of the patient with locally advanced or metastatic exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate online. Feb 2017.
Winter JM, et al. Cancer of the pancreas, DeVita Hellman and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2016.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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