TREATMENTS FOR PANCREATIC CANCER
Treatment involves surgery to remove the portion of pancreas with the tumour.
However, if the cancer is in its advanced stages and has spread to other parts of the body, treatment will involve
- radiotherapy and
- managing symptoms for the best quality of life.
How to Choose the Best Pancreatic Surgeon?
Pancreatic surgery is complex. The best results are achieved in high volume centres that have experienced pancreatic surgeons, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, radiologists, pathologist, critical care specialists and allied health professionals who specialize in treating large numbers of patients with pancreatic cancer. Your general practitioner can refer you to a high volume centre.
What Treatment Choices are Available for Pancreatic Cancer?
Surgical approaches differ for masses in the head, body, tail, or uncinate process of the pancreas.
Surgical resection is the mainstay treatment for Pancreatic Cancer.
Patients with unresectable, metastatic, or recurrent disease are unlikely to benefit from surgical resection.
What Other Treatments Are Available For Pancreatic Cancer?
Most patients with pancreatic cancer will benefit from chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Patients with any stage of pancreatic cancer can be considered candidates for clinical trials.
How Will My Life Change After Pancreatic Cancer Surgery?
It can take up to three months to fully recover from pancreatic surgery.
Palliative measures that can improve quality of life while not affecting the overall survival rate include the following:
- Surgical, endoscopic, or radiological biliary decompression.
- Relief of gastric outlet obstruction.
- Pain control.
- Psychological care to address the potentially disabling psychological events associated with the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.
What Are The Range Of Recovery Outcomes After Pancreatic Cancer Surgery?
The primary factors that influence prognosis are:
- Whether the tumour is localized and can be completely resected.
- Whether the tumour has spread to other organs.
The highest cure rate occurs if the tumour is truly localized to the pancreas, however, this stage of disease accounts for less than 20% of cases.
For patients with localized disease and small cancers (<2 cm) with no lymph node metastases and no extension beyond the capsule of the pancreas the post-operative survival rate improves. Where a complete surgical resection is successful a 5-year survival rate for one quarter of patients is possible.
What Are The Specific Procedures For Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic surgery comprises of a wide range of surgical procedures. Some of the commonly performed pancreatic surgeries include:
- Whipple Procedure: Also known as pancreaticoduodenectomy, is performed to treat cancers at the head (wide part) of the pancreas. During the procedure, the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, duodenum, a part of the bile duct, and sometimes a part of the stomach are removed. The remaining bile duct, intestine, and pancreas are then reconnected so that enzymes and bile can flow back into the intestines.
- Distal pancreatectomy is usually performed when the cancer is found in the middle or tapering end of the pancreas. This procedure takes less time and has a shorter period of recovery when compared to Whipple procedure.