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Advanced Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer


Because pancreatic cancer tends to spread quickly and is rarely caught early, most cases are advanced by the time doctors diagnose them. 

Treatments for pancreatic cancer vary by stage and focus on slowing its growth and easing pain and other symptoms.

The most common treatments for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Learn more about your options for pancreatic cancer treatment in the Bay Area, at one of our four convenient locations:

Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

If imaging exams show it’s possible to remove all the cancer, surgery may be an option. If this is not the case, surgery may still be useful to help prevent complications and relieve symptoms.

Radiation Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Radiation therapy can be used either before or after surgery to fight cancer. Before surgery, It can help shrink a tumor, which increases the chance of surgically removing all the cancerous tissue. After surgery, doctors can use radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells. For pancreatic cancer, doctors often combine radiation with chemotherapy after surgery. This combination may be used as a main treatment or to relieve symptoms for people who can’t have surgery.

Chemotherapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Chemotherapy is another common treatment that can help shrink tumors before surgery and kill remaining cancer cells after surgery. Chemotherapy also can help prevent cancer from returning after surgery. 

When surgery is not an option, doctors will often use chemotherapy. Combining it with radiation can improve the results, but it often causes more severe side effects.

Targeted Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Targeted therapy is available for advanced pancreatic cancer when surgery is not an option. Targeted therapies are highly specific medicines that pinpoint markers present only on cancer cells. They use the marker to identify cancer cells and kill them. Sometimes this therapy works when traditional chemotherapy alone does not. Targeted therapy tends to have less severe side effects than chemotherapy.

Considering Your Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer

At Dignity Health, your doctor will discuss the goals, side effects, and benefits of each treatment option with you. It’s also important to understand the likelihood of a cure with current treatments.

People with pancreatic cancer may want to consider enrolling in a clinical trial for access to experimental treatments. Qualifications and availability for enrollment vary with each clinical trial. Ask your doctor about clinical trials that may be appropriate for you.

Palliative therapy to ease the pain and symptoms of pancreatic cancer is critical. Palliative care provides both physical and psychological care to improve your overall health and well-being while living with cancer. 

Dignity Health hospitals in the Bay Area provide pancreatic cancer treatment in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.