Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Options Explained

A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer may make you feel helpless and alone. However, you shouldn't give up hope. There are several treatment options available for pancreatic cancer patients. Learn more about the treatment options available to you so that you're fully informed before discussing your options with your oncologist (like those at ATLAS ONCOLOGY).

Whipple Procedure

If your doctor determines that your tumor can be removed completely, he or she may suggest the Whipple Procedure. During this surgery, your surgeon removes any part of the pancreas head that's affected by the tumor, as well as some of the pancreas body, small intestine, stomach, common bile duct, lymph nodes, and gallbladder if necessary. Unfortunately, your surgeon won't be able to determine which body parts need to be removed before the surgery begins, and about 50 percent of the time, The surgeon begins the surgery and discovers that the patient's cancer has spread and the tumor can't be removed safely.

Before your surgeon begins the Whipple Procedure, he or she will probably suggest that you undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. The treatments are used to try to shrink the tumor before the operation begins. Also, if your surgeon is able to complete the surgery successfully, you may need to go through one or both of the treatments post-op to keep the tumor from regrowing.

Radiation and Chemotherapy

Patients with pancreatic cancer that's inoperable typically undergo chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the two treatments to slow the progress of the disease. It's possible for these treatments to shrink the tumor and keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of your body, allowing you to live as long as possible. While you're going through chemo and/or radiation, your doctor should also provide you with a pain management plan to help ensure you're in the least amount of pain possible.

Nanoknife Procedure

The nanoknife procedure is a treatment that's newer than the Whipple Procedure. It's normally used to treat pancreatic cancer patients who have advanced stages of cancer because it's an irreversible procedure. Nanoknife cancer surgery is considered minimally invasive. During the procedure, your surgeon places six thin, long needles into strategic places in your body to surround the tumor. Once placed, electric pulses are sent through the needles to cause tiny holes in the tumor. The small holes make the cancer cells unbalanced, which can completely destroy the tumor.

The nanoknife procedure normally lasts between two and four hours. Once the procedure is complete, you'll need to be on a round of antibiotics to prevent infection. Even though the nanoknife procedure is fairly new, the procedure yields a median survival rate in patients of 24 months — double that of chemo and radiation.

Getting a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is scary, but it's important that you try your best to think positive. Review all of the treatment options available with your doctor and decide which is the best option for you.