Possible therapies for patients with pancreatic cancer are:
Surgery is indicated for patients with pancreatic cancer in the early stages, the surgeon usually removes only the pancreas area affected by the cancer but, in some cases, it may be necessary to remove the entire organ. The type of surgery depends on the location of the cancer within the pancreas. The operation to remove a tumor in the head of the pancreas is called Whipple and is the most frequent type of surgery for pancreatic cancer. We advise you to ask the surgeon what are the other types of intervention and what is the most suitable for you.
Chemotherapy is a drug therapy that kills cancer cells and is necessary for the majority of patients with pancreatic cancer; for pancreatic cancer in the early stages, the chemotherapy is usually given after surgery (adjuvant therapy) while, in some cases, is administered before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy). For cancer at advanced stage chemotherapy may be used alone, or in combination with the targeted therapy or with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer is usually administered intravenously (IV), the drugs enter the bloodstream and reach the whole body. Chemotherapy can be administered in the day hospital, in the clinic or at home. Hospitalization is required only in rare cases.
Who is suffering from pancreatic cancer and cannot have surgery will likely be subjected simultaneously to chemotherapy, to another drug therapy, called targeted therapy. The targeted therapy is able to slow the growth of pancreatic cancer and to prevent its spread. The drugs are taken orally. Among the possible side effects include: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rash, breathing problems.
Radiation therapy uses powerful waves that can kill cancer cells, it can be administered simultaneously with other therapies, such as chemotherapy. The radiations are produced by a large apparatus that directs and focuses towards the tumor; to undergo radiation therapy, as a rule, you must go to the hospital or clinic five days a week, for several consecutive weeks. Sessions last about half an hour each. Radiation therapy does not cause pain, but it can cause other side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and severe tiredness. The medical team can suggest how to cure or control these side effects.
Currently pancreatic cancer can be treated successfully if it is diagnosed when still is in the early stages (ie it has not yet caused metastases) and only if the surgery fails to remove it completely. For those who cannot undergo surgery other therapies are able to prolong life and improve your overall health.
To fine-tune the therapy is at your disposal a team of specialists, probably will be your family doctor to recommend a specialist, or you can ask for advice.
The team that will follow will describe the possible treatments, the expected results of each and any side effects; anticancer therapies, in fact, often damage cells and healthy tissues, so the side effects are frequent and depend on several factors, such as the type of therapy and by its action.
The side effects may vary depending on the patient and may even change from one to another therapy session: Before initiating therapy ask the doctors who follow you what side effects to expect, and how therapy can affect your daily life , remember, however, that, along with doctors, you can develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.