Treatment options for cancer that starts in the pancreas include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and in some cases additional options, depending on your cancer type and stage. Researchers are also conducting clinical studies to test targeted therapies and other treatments. Your team will explain your options and recommend a treatment plan that’s tailored to you.
At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), a team of specialists, which may include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and endocrinologists, will treat you. You’ll be seen in our Pancreatic Cancer Specialty Clinic.
- Exocrine pancreatic cancer: This type of cancer is often diagnosed at later stages, when the cancer has grown around major blood vessels or spread to other organs. But even then, there is a lot that we can do to help control your symptoms and extend your life.
- Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs): These tumors can often be cured. Your treatment and prognosis depend on several factors, such as where the NETs are in your pancreas, whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, and how healthy you are overall.
Where you’re treated first can make a difference in your outcome.
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer leads to many questions. SCCA doctors and staff provide compassionate care and support so you know what to expect.
Surgery is the only treatment with the potential to cure exocrine pancreatic cancer or pancreatic NETs. Your team may recommend surgery if imaging studies suggest that surgeons will be able to remove all your cancer.
Your treatment will most likely include chemotherapy if you have exocrine pancreatic cancer and may include chemotherapy if you have pancreatic NETs.
Talk with your doctor about whether targeted therapies might be an option for you. These treatments target cancer cells rather than attacking all fast-growing cells, like conventional chemotherapy does.
People with exocrine pancreatic cancer may have radiation therapy or chemoradiation—a combination of radiation and chemotherapy—to help cure or control their disease. Those with pancreatic NETs may have radiation therapy to help control their disease if it has spread to other parts of the body.
Proton therapy is a precise form of radiation treatment that targets protons at tumors to kill cancer cells, while significantly limiting radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.
If your NETs secrete hormones, as some do, other medications may help treat your cancer or symptoms.
Patients with pancreatic cancer sometimes experience abdominal pain or back pain, which can impact quality of life. SCCA offers many options to help relieve pain, including specialized care through our Pain Clinic.
The pancreas aids in digestion and regulates blood glucose levels. An SCCA dietitian will work with you to help ensure you get balanced nutrition during your treatment for pancreatic cancer.