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Pancreatic Cancer: Know Your Treatment Options

Of the 45,000 people who will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, more than 38,000 will succumb to the disease. Of the 45,000 people who will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, more than 38,000 will succumb to the disease, according to American Cancer Society (ACS). There are, however, different treatment options available based on the stage of cancer diagnosis.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

Surgery offers the best chance for long-term control of all types of pancreatic cancer, according to the ACS. Here's a brief explanation of the three types of surgeries available – Whipple procedure, distal pancreatectomy and total pancreatectomy:

  • Whipple procedure (also known as pancreaticoduodenectomy) involves removing the head of the pancreas, parts of the stomach and small intestine, some lymph nodes, the gallbladder, and the common bile duct. The remaining organs are then reconnected in a new way to allow digestion.
  • Distal pancreatectomy involves removing the tail and/or body of the pancreas, but not the head. This operation is less common because most tumors usually start in the head of the pancreas.
  • Total pancreatectomy involves removing the gallbladder, uppermost part of the small intestine, bottom portion of the stomach, local lymph nodes and the entire pancreas; the spleen may also be removed.
  • If the cancer has spread too far and there is no treatment, surgeons may perform surgical procedures that can be used to relieve symptoms such as nausea, jaundice, vomiting, and pain.

There are other options for treatment if the disease is caught early enough. Chemotherapy uses a combination of drugs to either destroy cancer cells or slow them down. Radiation therapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. Another treatment option is targeted therapy, which uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Expert Care for Pancreatic Cancer

"For pancreatic cancer patients who have stage one or stage two pancreatic cancer, surgery offers the best hope and, in some cases, can cure the disease," said Drexel Medicine pancreatic surgeon and surgical oncology specialist Wilbur Bowne, M.D., also an associate professor in the Department of Surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine. "Treatment options for later stage pancreatic cancer may start first with chemotherapy and radiation to downstage or shrink tumors, followed by surgery. Our team of multidisciplinary cancer specialists will work with you to develop the best treatment or care options available and will help you and your family make the right decision."

Drexel Cancer Care

Drexel Cancer Care utilizes the latest medical breakthroughs to treat all forms of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. Our specialists are located centrally in Philadelphia, offering patients easy access to advanced cancer care, and are committed to providing patients with compassionate, comprehensive cancer treatment. Drexel Cancer Care also provides patients with access to numerous support groups. These groups are offered free of charge to patients, families and caregivers.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.


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