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Pancreatic Cancer Treament Types

The spread and the stage of the pancreatic cancer determine the best treatment. Although the stages are easy to understand, a major surgery is normally required to stage the cancer. In practice, imaging and a personal history are key determinants in the kind of treatment chosen by the doctors.


Based on imaging, doctors first determine whether the cancer can be removed by surgery (termed resectable) or not. It is then categorized as below:

Resectable Pancreatic Cancer

People whose pancreatic cancer is considered resectable have a small chance of cure and may undergo one of three surgeries:

Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy can also be used in conjunction with surgery for resectable pancreatic cancer in order to:

Chemotherapy includes cancer drugs that travel through the whole body. Either of two chemotherapy drugs can be used:

In radiation therapy, high-energy X-rays are beamed externally over the affected areas. These X-rays penetrate through the skin and kill the cancer cells.

Unresectable (locally advanced) Pancreatic Cancer

Since the cancer cannot be removed surgically in this case, nonsurgical therapies including chemo and/or radiation therapy are the best available options.

Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

Similar to unresectable cancer, metastatic pancreatic cancer cannot be removed and thus, chemotherapy with gemcitabine is the best available treatment.

As the cancer progresses beyond cure, the priority may shift from extending life to reducing symptoms and the pain associated with it.