Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Treatment of pancreatic cancer depends on its type and the stage, but there are several options including:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Radiosurgery (a form of radiation)


Early-stage pancreatic cancer may be removed surgically with the goal of curing the patient. The most common surgery is called the Whipple procedure, or pancreaticoduodenectomy.

This operation includes the removal of a portion of the pancreas, the gall bladder, the duodenum (small intestine) and part of the stomach. Generally, surgical resection (removal of damaged tissue) is only possible in 20 percent of pancreatic cancer cases.

In those cases, the average survival is from 15 to 25 months; 15 to 20 percent of Whipple patients have a long-term survival rate (more than five years).

Recovery time for patients undergoing a Whipple procedure varies and most require a hospital stay of several days to two weeks. Patients diet is also restricted, with no liquid or solid food by mouth during this time.

Chemotherapy, radiation & radiosurgery

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or radiosurgery (which treats a tumor by delivering a high dose of radiation with extreme accuracy) can be used to treat patients whose disease is more advanced. In these cases, chemotherapy combined with concurrent standard radiation therapy typically results in a median survival of eight to 12 months.

At the end stages of the disease, medicine, limited surgeries and other therapies may treat the pain, obstruction of the bile duct, and hormonal consequences of pancreatic cancer. Radiation therapy alone, or in conjunction with chemotherapy, has been shown to provide some pain control at this stage, with 35-percent to 65-percent effectiveness.

CyberKnife pancreatic cancer treatment

Studies have also shown that CyberKnife may be a good option for pancreatic cancer patients. Since CyberKnife treatment targets tumor cells directly, sparing the surrounding healthy tissues, it may help those who are poor candidates for surgery or when other treatments have failed.

The advantage of CyberKnife treatment over traditional radiation therapy is that the CyberKnife treatment takes only 1 week instead of 5 weeks (or 5 treatments instead of 25). In addition, patients treated with CyberKnife have relatively no side effects compared to traditional radiation (which is frequently associated with nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue).

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