Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreas is a gland responsible for producing different enzymes that help in proper digestion of the food. This gland is located behind the stomach near the small intestine. A chronic pancreatic inflammation, eating of tobacco, history of diabetes and obesity are the common causes of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer often cannot be detected at the early stages. In the later stages, symptoms include vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, painless jaundice etc. Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer includes CT scan, endoscopic ultrasound, liver function tests and other blood tests. Options of treatment for pancreatic cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. Below we discuss these options.
Surgery for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
There are different types of surgeries performed to relieve the patient from pancreatic cancer. The type of surgery performed depends on the extent to which the cancerous cells are spread inside the patient pancreas.
- Whipple Procedure: In this method, the head of the pancreas along with a part of the stomach and small intestine are removed. This type of surgery is only performed when the cancerous cells are found to be majorly predominant in the head or the widest region of the gland. This procedure is only preferred when the chances of survival of the patient after the surgery are maximum.
- Distal Pancreatectomy: In this method, the body and the tail of the pancreas along with the spleen is removed from the patient’s body. This method is performed when the cancerous cells are found in the body of the pancreas. Once this type of surgery is completed successfully, then patient is prescribed chemotherapy cycles that would help to kill the remaining cancerous cells.
- Total Pancreatectomy: In this method, the pancreas along with a small portion of the nearby lymph nodes, spleen, gallbladder, small intestine and the stomach are removed.
Radiation Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
In this method, high energy rays or radioactive substances are used to kill the cancerous cells in the pancreas. It is mostly given after surgery, to kill the remaining cancerous cells. It can be given externally as well as internally. But, in most cases, external radiation therapy is preferred over internal radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
In this method, different combinations of drugs are administered intravenously in the patient’s body. This therapy is generally given after surgery, to destroy the remaining cancerous cells. The most commonly used chemotherapy drug for pancreatic cancer chemotherapy is Gemcitabine. This drug is given in the form of intravenous injection in weekly chemotherapy cycles. Sometimes, erlotinib or placebo can also be used in combination with gemcitabine. This combination is given to kill the cancerous cells in the advanced stages of pancreatic cancer.
Hormone Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Hormone therapy is given in cases where surgery cannot be performed and the patient’s body does not respond to other methods of treatment for pancreatic cancer. In such cases, it also indirectly indicates that the growth of the cancerous cells is due to some other factor (hormonal) and hence their metastasis is quick and they cannot be killed easily. If in such cases, the other factor is found to be hormonal then drugs are prescribed to stop or reduce the secretion or functioning of that hormone, thus blocking the growth of the cancerous cells, which eventually results in their death. The most commonly prescribed drug in these cases is octreotide.
Pancreatic cancer is termed to be “the silent killer” as the patient suffering from it does not complain of any symptoms in its early stages. Though it is difficult to detect pancreatic cancer in the early stages, and the options of treatment for cancer of this type are also aggressive, pancreatic cancer can be cured effectively in most of the cases. Also, the patients undergoing the different options of treatment for pancreatic cancer have been observed to enjoy a prolonged life.
Please note: The medications or drugs given above must be consumed only under the supervision of an oncologist.