Cancer of pancreas often has a poor prognosis, even when identified early. Typically, it tends to spread rapidly, and is seldom detected in the early phase.

Pancreatic cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, location of the tumor, the age of the patient, his overall health and his choice. The primary aim of pancreatic cancer treatment is to eliminate the cancer. When that is not possible, the focus is on checking a growth and spread of the cancer. When the cancer has reached an advanced stage and treatments aren’t likely to offer a benefit, the surgeon advocates ways to allay the symptoms and make one as comfortable as possible.

Surgery and Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Surgery is a treatment option when the cancer is confined to the pancreas. Surgeries performed are:

• Procedures for tumors in the pancreatic head: if the cancer is in the head of the pancreas, the Whipple procedure (pancreato-duodenectomy) is usually done. The Whipple procedure excises the head of the pancreas, and a part of the small intestine, gall bladder and portion of the bile duct. Occasionally, a segment of the stomach is removed too. The surgeon will reconnect the remaining parts of the pancreas, stomach and intestine to allow food to be digested.

• Surgery for tumors in the pancreatic tail and body: distal pancreatectomy is done to excise the tail of the pancreas or the tail and a small part of the body of the pancreas.

Radiation Therapy and Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Radiation therapy uses powerful energy beams, like X-rays to wipe out the cancer cells. Radiotherapy may be given before or after the surgical procedure, often in conjunct with chemotherapy. Or, the physician may advise a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy when the cancer can not be managed surgically.

Radiation therapy may be external, from a device outside the body (teletherapy radiation), or may be internal, placed inside the body near the tumor mass (brachytherapy).

Chemotherapy and Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy uses strong anti cancer drugs to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be administered orally or injected in to a vein. Chemotherapy drugs may be given singly, or in combination with each other.

Chemo-radiation therapy is used to tackle cancer that has extended beyond the pancreas, to adjacent organs and not to distant parts of the body. People having advanced pancreatic cancer need chemotherapy with targeted drug therapy.

Targeted Therapy and Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Targeted therapy uses powerful drugs that hit specific abnormalities in the malignant cells. The targeted drug erlotinib (Tarceva) impedes chemicals that send messages to the tumor cells to proliferate.