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Treatment Option Overview

    The survival rate of patients with any stage of pancreatic exocrine cancer is poor. Clinical trials are appropriate alternatives for treatment of patients with any stage of disease and should be considered prior to selecting palliative approaches. To provide optimal palliation, determination of resectability must be made. Staging studies for resectability include helical computed tomographic scan, magnetic resonance imaging scan, and endoscopic ultrasound. The introduction of minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopy and laparoscopic ultrasound, may decrease the use of laparotomy.[1,2] Surgical resection remains the primary modality when feasible since, on occasion, resection can lead to long-term survival and provides effective palliation.[3,4,5][Level of evidence: 3iA] The role of postoperative therapy (chemotherapy with or without chemoradiation therapy) in the management of this disease remains controversial because much of the randomized clinical trial data available are statistically underpowered and provide conflicting results.[6,7,8,9,10] Frequently, malabsorption caused by exocrine insufficiency contributes to malnutrition. Attention to pancreatic enzyme replacement can help alleviate this problem. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Nutrition in Cancer Care for more information.) Celiac axis (and intrapleural) nerve blocks can provide highly effective and long-lasting control of pain for some patients. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Pain for more information.)

    Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

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    Whipple Procedure

    Among common cancers, pancreatic cancer has one of the poorest prognoses. Because pancreatic cancer often grows and spreads long before it causes any symptoms, only about 5% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis. For some pancreatic patients, however, a complex surgery known as the Whipple procedure may extend life and could be a potential cure. Those who undergo the Whipple procedure have a five-year survival rate of about 20%. The classic Whipple procedure is named after Allen...

    Read the Whipple Procedure article > >

    References:

    1. John TG, Greig JD, Carter DC, et al.: Carcinoma of the pancreatic head and periampullary region. Tumor staging with laparoscopy and laparoscopic ultrasonography. Ann Surg 221 (2): 156-64, 1995.
    2. Minnard EA, Conlon KC, Hoos A, et al.: Laparoscopic ultrasound enhances standard laparoscopy in the staging of pancreatic cancer. Ann Surg 228 (2): 182-7, 1998.
    3. Yeo CJ, Cameron JL, Lillemoe KD, et al.: Pancreaticoduodenectomy for cancer of the head of the pancreas. 201 patients. Ann Surg 221 (6): 721-31; discussion 731-3, 1995.
    4. Conlon KC, Klimstra DS, Brennan MF: Long-term survival after curative resection for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Clinicopathologic analysis of 5-year survivors. Ann Surg 223 (3): 273-9, 1996.
    5. Yeo CJ, Abrams RA, Grochow LB, et al.: Pancreaticoduodenectomy for pancreatic adenocarcinoma: postoperative adjuvant chemoradiation improves survival. A prospective, single-institution experience. Ann Surg 225 (5): 621-33; discussion 633-6, 1997.
    6. Further evidence of effective adjuvant combined radiation and chemotherapy following curative resection of pancreatic cancer. Gastrointestinal Tumor Study Group. Cancer 59 (12): 2006-10, 1987.
    7. Kalser MH, Ellenberg SS: Pancreatic cancer. Adjuvant combined radiation and chemotherapy following curative resection. Arch Surg 120 (8): 899-903, 1985.
    8. Klinkenbijl JH, Jeekel J, Sahmoud T, et al.: Adjuvant radiotherapy and 5-fluorouracil after curative resection of cancer of the pancreas and periampullary region: phase III trial of the EORTC gastrointestinal tract cancer cooperative group. Ann Surg 230 (6): 776-82; discussion 782-4, 1999.
    9. Neoptolemos JP, Dunn JA, Stocken DD, et al.: Adjuvant chemoradiotherapy and chemotherapy in resectable pancreatic cancer: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 358 (9293): 1576-85, 2001.
    10. Neoptolemos JP, Stocken DD, Friess H, et al.: A randomized trial of chemoradiotherapy and chemotherapy after resection of pancreatic cancer. N Engl J Med 350 (12): 1200-10, 2004.

      This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

      WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

      Last Updated: February 25, 2014
      This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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