Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is an organ located in the abdomen that sits behind the lower part of the stomach. This organ aids digestion by releasing enzymes and manages blood sugar by producing hormones. Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas and is seldom detected in its early stages, when the disease is most curable. The treatments for pancreatic cancer, other than surgery and chemotherapy, include ablation, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.

The treatment options for pancreatic cancer include the following:

1. Ablation
One of the treatments for pancreatic cancer is ablation, which is a non-surgical way of destroying the cancerous cells in the pancreas. This procedure is useful when cancer has spread to the liver and other organs.

The common ablation treatments include:

  • Cryoablation
    This treatment option for pancreatic cancer freezes cancer cells to kill them. A metal probe is inserted into the pancreas and guided to the cancer cells through ultrasound. Cold gases are delivered to freeze and destroy the cancer cells. It is used to treat large tumors of the pancreas.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation
    A metal probe in the size of a needle is inserted into the pancreas. A high-frequency electric current is passed destroying the cancer cells by heating them.

2. Microwave Thermotherapy
This treatment for pancreatic cancer is similar to radiofrequency ablation, the difference is that microwaves are used to destroy the cancer cells.

3. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses X-rays or high energy beams to destroy cancer cells. External beam therapy is where a device is aimed at the pancreas to deliver radiation to the cancerous cells. The patient is given low doses of radiation for many weeks. Since radiation can cause cancer, the dosage is adjusted to ensure that there is no high exposure.

Radiation is the most common treatment for pancreatic cancer. Proton beam therapy is a form of radiation therapy where protons are used to destroy the cancer cells. It is considered to be relatively safer than conventional energy beams.

Cyberknife is a new radiation therapy technique that can treat cancer in fewer sessions as compared to conventional radiation therapy. It is a relatively new therapy, and it is not yet established whether or not it delivers better results.

4. Chemoradiation
This treatment method is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. It is commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer in the advanced stages. Chemoradiation is also used to reduce the size of the tumor so that surgery can be carried out to remove the tumor. It is also known as chemoradiotherapy.

5. Immunotherapy
This treatment option for pancreatic cancer is also known as biological therapy. It works by stimulating the body’s natural immune system to help it fight cancer. The immune system’s response is weakened by cancer. Drugs used in immunotherapy can help in boosting the immune system’s functioning.

There are different types of immunotherapy drugs, like checkpoint inhibitors that can help in treating cancer. However, immunotherapy isn’t without side effects.

6. Palliative treatment
This treatment focuses on improving the quality of life and reducing the symptoms of cancer. It is a supportive process where the physical and emotional needs of the patient are addressed by the care providers. This treatment is very important due to the impact cancer can have on a person’s life.

It can include chemotherapy to reduce pain and symptoms when the cancer is in the final stage. Diet for providing nutrition, and for controlling diabetes and other complications are involved in palliative treatment.

The treatments for pancreatic cancer other than surgery and chemotherapy have been discussed in this article. Ablation, radiation, and immunotherapy are commonly used, especially in advanced stages.