Pancreatic Cancer

Treatment options for pancreatic cancer.

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Getting started

Your treatment begins with your Legacy Cancer Institute doctor recommending a plan based on expert guidelines, called protocols. Your treatment is also determined by:

  • The type of tumor
  • The location of the tumor
  • The extent of the disease, called the stage
  • Any tests you have had during diagnosis
  • A discussion about what is right for you

Treatment options

There are several types of treatment for pancreatic cancer depending on how much it has spread (the stage), and many people undergo a combination of treatments. As with many cancers, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are among them.

  • Surgery may be an option for pancreatic cancer if the cancer hasn’t spread. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer has usually spread too far to be removed completely. If the cancer can’t be removed, your doctor might recommend surgery to ease symptoms (called palliative surgery).

    Legacy offers conventional and laparoscopic options for pancreatic surgery. Surgery is used to remove part or all of the pancreas. Among the surgeries we offer:
    • Distal pancreatectomy 
    • Total pancreatectomy
    • Whipple (also called pancreaticoduodenectomy)

The Whipple procedure removes the head of the pancreas, the duodenum, a portion of the stomach and other nearby tissue. Pancreatectomy is surgery to remove all or part of the pancreas.

  • Radiation uses X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. In some cases, radiation reduces the size of the tumor to make it easier to remove surgically. It may be used when surgery or other treatments aren't good options.
    Legacy has the latest radiation technology, reducing treatment time and better protecting your healthy organs from high-dose radiation
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill cancer cells throughout the body. For pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery and often with radiation. Or chemotherapy may be the main treatment for people who can't have surgery. Your chemotherapy plan will be tailored to fit your individual needs.
  • Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to treat cancer (also called biologic therapy).

Talk to your doctor about these and other treatments for pancreatic cancer. There may also be a clinical trial (research study) for which you are eligible. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care. 

What happens next

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these symptoms in the best ways possible. Comfort care can treat symptoms to help improve your quality of life; this is also called palliative care.

Because the pancreas has a role in digesting food, those who undergo surgery to remove the pancreas may need medicines to help the body digest food and support nutrition.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. These tests can also determine if cancer has returned. Whenever possible, we work to stop the growth of cancer and reduce the chance of cancer coming back.  


Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.

A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.