Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Banner MD Anderson uses the latest, most advanced therapies for pancreatic cancer, personalizing your care to ensure the most advanced treatment with the least impact on your body. We offer the latest innovative pancreatic cancer treatments including:
Frequently, treatment for pancreatic cancer requires more than one type of therapy. Our physicians have significant expertise in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
If surgery is possible, our approach to pancreatic cancer usually is to complete chemotherapy and radiation before surgery. This method increases chances the tumor can be removed completely, helps chemotherapy and radiation be more effective, and makes for better recovery.
If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it and customize a treatment approach that best meets your medical needs. This depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the cancer and your general health.
Surgery for pancreatic cancer may be used to help treat the cancer or to help relieve symptoms such as blocked bile ducts or intestine.
Only about 10% of pancreatic cancers are contained entirely within the pancreas at the time of diagnosis. Attempts to remove the entire cancer may be successful in some patients. But even when the cancer seems to have not spread, cancer cells too few to detect may have spread to other parts of the body.
The main types of surgery for pancreatic cancer are:
- Curative: attempt to treat cancer by removing it
- Palliative: attempt to relieve symptoms and make you more comfortable
Pancreaticoduodenectomy is the most common surgery to attempt to remove a pancreatic tumor. Also known as the Whipple procedure, this operation removes:
- Head of the pancreas
- Body of the pancreas (in some patients)
- Part of the stomach
- Duodenum (first part of the small intestine)
- A small portion of the jejunum (second part of the small intestine)
- Lymph nodes near the pancreas
- Part of the common bile duct
This major operation carries a high risk of complications, even when it is performed by experienced surgeons. About 30% to 50% of patients suffer complications, including leakage from surgical connections, infections and bleeding.
The surgery takes from six to 12 hours and requires a seven- to 10-day stay in the hospital. You may need nutritional support with a feeding tube or through a vein. Recovery will take about a month. It will be three months before your digestive system works well again.
Distal pancreatectomy removes only the tail of the pancreas, or the tail and a part of the body of the pancreas. The spleen usually is removed as well. This operation is used more often with islet cell tumors.
Total pancreatectomy, which removes the entire pancreas and the spleen, was once used for tumors in the body or head of the pancreas. However, when the entire pancreas is removed, patients are left without islet cells, which produce insulin. They develop hard-to-manage diabetes and become dependent on injected insulin. Studies have not shown any advantage to removing the whole pancreas.
Surgical techniques to help relieve symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- Stent placement: Metal tubes that help keep the bile duct open are inserted, avoiding blockage. This procedure is used more often than biliary bypass. Stents may be placed with an endoscope.
- Biliary bypass: The surgeon makes a cut in the gallbladder or bile duct and then sews it to the small intestine. This helps when a tumor is blocking the small intestine and causing bile to build up in the gallbladder. This surgery also may help relieve pain.
- Gastric bypass: When pancreatic cancer blocks the stomach, the stomach may be sewn to the small intestine, allowing you to eat normally.
These may be used to help treat exocrine pancreatic cancer when a few tumors have spread. They include:
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) heats and destroys tissue with radio waves
- Microwave thermotherapy uses microwaves to heat and destroy cancer
- Cryosurgery or cryoablation freezes tissue to destroy it
Embolization or chemoembolization delivers substances, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, to the blood vessels around the tumor, cutting off the blood supply to the pancreatic cancer.
We offer the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for pancreatic cancer.
New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow Banner MD Anderson doctors to target pancreatic cancer tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
Banner MD Anderson offers targeted therapies for some types of pancreatic cancer. These innovative new drugs stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the tumor with what it needs to grow.