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How does pancreatic cancer get treated?

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Quick Answer

Treatment of pancreatic cancer usually begins by staging and diagnosing the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. A team of doctors and health care professionals then come together to discuss treatment options such as surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy, states Cancer.net.

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Full Answer

Using surgery to treat pancreatic cancer usually includes the removal of parts of the pancreas or the entire organ, states Cancer.net. However, only about 20 percent of patients are able to undergo surgery, because pancreatic cancer has usually spread by the time it has been discovered. Doctors may decide to combine surgery with either radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-ray particles to target and destroy cancer cells, according to Cancer.net. It can sometimes be given after surgery, especially in patients who have a high chance of the cancer returning. This treatment might also be used before surgery to shrink borderline removable tumors. External-beam radiation is the type of radiation most commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer and usually involves five to six weeks of once-daily doses of radiation.

Chemotherapy is another treatment option commonly used for pancreatic cancer, states Cancer.net. This type of therapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells and prevent them from dividing and multiplying. Patients are given treatment via the bloodstream, and the process may consist of one drug or a mixture of drugs.

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