To ensure you receive the best care, your specialist will arrange for a team of health professionals to plan your treatment based on your preferences and needs.
The team will be made up of health professionals who have experience managing and supporting a person with pancreatic cancer. Your specialist will tell you when the team will be discussing your case.
Your team should discuss the different treatment options with you including the likely outcomes, expected timeframes, possible side effects and the risks and benefits. Your doctor may also suggest you consider taking part in a clinical trial. You might want to ask for more time before deciding on your treatment.
Let your team know about any complementary therapies you are using or thinking about trying. Some therapies may not be appropriate, depending on your medical treatment.
The treatment options depend on whether the cancer has spread beyond your pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is usually not found until it is advanced because symptoms can be vague or go unnoticed.
Treatment options for advanced pancreatic cancer (if the cancer has spread to other organs):
If the cancer has grown into structures near the pancreas but not spread further, treatment can involve a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the pancreas and surrounding tissues.
Chemotherapy may be given to treat cancers that have spread to other organs.
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) may be given to you in combination with chemotherapy.
Treatment options for early pancreatic cancer:
If the cancer is found at an early stage and is contained within or around the pancreas, it might be 'resectable'. This means it may be possible to remove the cancer with surgery. You may also have chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy before or after surgery. This only happens in a small proportion of cases.
The surgical procedure most commonly used to remove a pancreatic cancer is called the 'Whipple procedure'.
Surgery (Whipple procedure)
Surgery (Whipple procedure) is the most common treatment for people with early pancreatic cancer.
It is important that this surgery is performed by a surgeon who is very experienced in performing Whipple procedures and performs several of these operations every year.
Palliative treatment will be used at different stages to relieve various symptoms and help to improve your quality of life.
For example, chronic pain is a common symptom of pancreatic cancer and is usually well controlled with medication. If the medication isn’t helping enough, speak again with your GP or palliative care clinician about other options for pain relief.
For pancreatic cancer, it is valuable to have a palliative care physician who has experience with this disease.
A palliative care team should oversee the treatment for pancreatic cancer to ensure that your physical and emotional needs are being met.
For more information about cancer treatment and treatment side effects ask your doctor or visit www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/treatment.