Once your doctor confirms a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, a treatment plan will be created for you. Your treatment plan will depend largely on the stage of the cancer when it is found.
Surgery is prescribed for nearly all pancreatic cancer patients when the cancer is found at an early stage. However, because pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until it is more advanced, surgery may not be an option.
Other Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer
Chemotherapy and radiation medicine may be part of your treatment plan as well. Sometimes you will first have surgery and then follow up with these other treatments to prevent the cancer from recurring (coming back), or you may receive chemotherapy and/or radiation medicine first to shrink the tumor prior to surgery.
Surgical procedures to treat pancreatic cancer include:
- Distal pancreatectomy. Your surgeon removes the benign or malignant tumors in the body or tail of the pancreas; your spleen is removed as well.
- Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy. This is similar to a distal pancreatectomy, but is a minimally invasive procedure. It is performed laparoscopically, meaning the procedure is performed using smaller incisions.
- Pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure).This is a more complex procedure for tumors in the head of the pancreas, in which the diseased portion of your pancreas is removed, along with some of the surrounding structures. Often, a pylorus-sparing Whipple that spares the stomach can be done. A laparoscopic-assisted Whipple is similar to the traditional Whipple procedure, but it is performed with a smaller incision and laparoscopic instruments.
- Total pancreatectomy. This is when your entire pancreas is removed. It is performed when the disease in the pancreas is extensive and there are no other options. Because your pancreas is responsible for producing insulin, you will need to follow a diabetic diet and take insulin after your surgery.
Sometimes, the tumor cannot be totally removed, but you may be suffering from a blockage of the biliary tubes, the tubes that transport bile. In this situation, your doctor will need to remove the blockage. There are two methods of doing this:
- Placing a tiny metal tube, called a biliary stent, during an ERCP procedure
Learn more about other pancreatic cancer treatment services: