Surgery options for early stages of pancreatic cancer
Tumours are generally operable in the early stages. Depending on your diagnosis, the surgical procedures available include:
- Whipple procedure - involves removing the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, gall bladder, part of the bile duct and sometimes, part of the stomach
- Distal pancreatectomy – removes tumours in the tail and body of the pancreas
- Total pancreatectomy – removes all your pancreas
Surgery options for advanced pancreatic cancer
Once pancreatic cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it becomes harder to operate. In this case, surgery is usually recommended to help relieve symptoms associated with your disease. Surgical options for advanced pancreatic cancer include:
- Stenting – the insertion of a small tube into your bile duct or bowel to allow food to pass through
- Bypass surgery - re-directs the flow of bile from the common bile duct to the small intestine, bypassing the pancreas
- Gastroenterostomy - connects your stomach to the second part of your small intestine.
- Venting gastrostomy - connects the stomach to an artificial opening on the abdomen to allow the insertion of a thin tube
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells in your body. Chemotherapy can be a treatment on its own or used in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgery.
There are various ways to use chemotherapy in your treatment. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy to:
- shrink a tumour before surgery for a better chance of removal (called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy)
- destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery to help prevent the cancer from returning (called adjuvant chemotherapy)
- when surgery is not an option, it can slow down the cancer growth
Chemotherapy is generally administered through a drip into the veins. Certain chemotherapy medicines also come in tablet form.
Radiation therapy uses radiation to safely treat and manage cancer. Radiation therapy treats cancer by damaging cancer cells while limiting the impact to healthy cells. Radiation therapy won't cure the cancer. But it can help to control the cancer and slow down its growth.
There are various ways to use radiation therapy in your treatment. Your specialist may recommend:
- shrinking the tumour before surgery to make it easier to remove
- destroying the remaining cancer cells after surgery to help prevent the cancer from returning
- to help relieve tumour-related symptoms