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Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer

The content below is part of the “Health Library” and is not indicative of services available at the facility.

The primary treatment for pancreatic cancer is surgery. The goal of treatment is to remove as much of the cancer as possible, while preserving the pancreas and its function. Additional treatment may help to prevent the spread or recurrence of cancer. The treatment plan will often include a combination of approaches based on the characteristics of the cancer, patient's age, general health, and prognosis.

Pancreatic cancer is usually found in advanced stages, so treatment may focus on palliative care, or managing symptoms of the cancer and maintaining as good a quality of life as possible. Advanced cancer treatments can be difficult, so have an honest discussion about the risks and benefits of treatment. The 5-year survival rate varies depending on the stage, but even Stage I cancers have an average survival rate of about 30%. Most deaths occur within the first year of diagnosis. Talk to your doctor about counseling or support groups. They can be beneficial for you and your family.

It is likely you will have a healthcare team that is made up of doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, and other health professionals. It is important to maintain contact with your medical team, adhere to recommended treatment, and go to any recommended appointments for the best outcomes possible.

Pancreatic cancer treatments include:

Existing treatment protocols have been established and continue to be modified through clinical trials. These research studies are essential to determine whether or not new treatments are both safe and effective. Since highly effective treatments for many cancers remain unknown, numerous clinical trials are always underway around the world. You may wish to ask your doctor if you should consider participating in a clinical trial. You can find out about clinical trials at the US National Institutes of Health website.

Revision Information

  • Cancer stats facts: pancreas cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/pancreas.html. Accessed March 23, 2017.

  • De La Cruz MD, Young AP, Ruffin MT. Diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(8):626-632.

  • Pancreatic cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114527/Pancreatic-cancer. Updated July 6, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2017.

  • Pancreatic cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/tumors-of-the-gi-tract/pancreatic-cancer. Updated January 2017. Accessed March 23, 2017.

  • Treating pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/treating.html. Accessed March 23, 2017.

  • Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/pancreatic/patient/pancreatic-treatment-pdq#section/%5F162. Updaed December 23, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2017.