Different treatments are available for those with pancreatic cancer. Some treatments are called standard. This means they are the currently used treatments. Some treatments are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments.
When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. You may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment, while others are available during or after treatment.
Treatment options vary depending on your situation including the stage of the cancer and other factors that may be present.
Talk with your team about the approach that is best for you.
One of the following types of surgery may be used to take out the tumor:
If the cancer has spread and cannot be removed, the following types of surgery may be done to relieve symptoms:
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
External radiation (or external beam radiation) comes from a machine outside the body. The machine directs high-energy rays at the cancer and some normal surrounding tissue. It is the most often used radiation treatment. The machine used to deliver the high-energy rays is called a linear accelerator.
Three-dimensional (3-D) conformal radiation treatment is a type of external beam radiation. It uses computers to allow doctors to more precisely target a tumor with radiation beams (using width, height, and depth).
Intensity-modulated radiation treatment (IMRT). IMRT is a type of 3-D conformal radiation treatment that uses radiation beams (usually x-rays) of various intensities to give different doses of radiation, at the same time, to small areas of tissue. This allows the delivery of higher doses of radiation to the tumor and lower doses to nearby healthy tissue.
Internal radiation treatment, or brachytherapy, is given by placing an implant into or near the tumor. The implant is a small container that holds the radioactive source or material. Internal radiation treatment allows your doctor to give a higher total dose of radiation to a smaller area and in a shorter time than with external radiation treatment.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) combines a drug called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent with a specific type of light to kill cancer cells. Photosensitizers are drugs that when exposed to a specific wavelength of light, produce a form of oxygen that kills nearby cells. PDT can also work by shrinking or destroy tumors by damaging blood vessels in the tumor. This prevents the cancer from receiving nutrients. Also, PDT may activate the immune system to attack the tumor cells.
Proton Therapy is the most precise form of radiation treatment for cancer possible, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue and surrounding organs.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
There are treatments for pain caused by pancreatic cancer.
Pain can occur when the tumor presses on nerves or other organs near the pancreas. When pain medicine is not enough, there are treatments that act on nerves in the abdomen to relieve the pain. The doctor may inject medicine into the area around affected nerves or may cut the nerves to block the feeling of pain. Radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy can also help relieve pain by shrinking the tumor.
Patients with pancreatic cancer have special nutritional needs.
Surgery to remove the pancreas may interfere with the production of pancreatic enzymes that help to digest food. As a result, patients may have problems digesting food and absorbing nutrients into the body. To prevent malnutrition, the doctor may prescribe medicines that replace these enzymes.
Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials at Penn
The Abramson Cancer Center hosts a wide range of materials and activities that provide education and support to address key areas of concern for cancer patients and their loved ones. We are proud that many of our innovative patient education programs have been recognized by national groups, including the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Patient Education Network.
Our educational materials and support activities help people deal with the physical and emotional consequences of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. They also assist patients and families to resume active lives after treatment.
Following the diagnosis and staging of pancreatic cancer, cancer specialists at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center develop a personalized treatment plan. Penn's treatment options for pancreatic cancer include:
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania is committed to helping each cancer survivor find ways to enjoy life to the fullest. We have a nationally recognized program that focuses on the issues that survivors face, called "Living Well After Cancer™."
The LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence, The Living Well After Cancer Program (LWAC) at the Abramson Cancer Center, directed by Linda A. Jacobs, PhD, RN, is a clinical, research, and education effort focused on early intervention and prevention of disease as the ultimate goal.
The multidisciplinary LWAC Program currently provides care and research opportunities to cancer survivors treated at Penn, the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Network hospitals, and through the Living Well ... read more Living Well
"There is a plan and meaning for everyone. If you get through cancer it really does change you. It makes you a better person: you live more in the moment, you become more compassionate, and you deeply understand what other people are going through when coping with the same terror of cancer. If I had to talk to someone who has to go through what I went through I would say, stay positive and live in the moment with gratitude. One sure way to take focus off yourself is to help and serve others. My spiritually and prayer was so important during my cancer journey. As Mother Teresa said 'the fruit of prayer is love and the fruit of love is service.' My experience at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center was magnificent! Doctors provide compassionate care, coupled with cutting edge technology!"
- Maryann Volpe
Peter O'Dwyer, MD, professor of Hematology-Oncology and program director of Development Therapeutics in the Abramson Cancer Center, was interviewed on NBC10's 10! Show about Penn's work as part of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team... Read more