Despite advances in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, the number of patients cured of the disease remains very small. In 2011, only 2 percent of pancreatic cancer patients were still alive five years after their initial diagnoses, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
In terms of short-term survival, 57 percent of pancreatic-cancer patients treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America were alive six months after beginning therapy, and 10 percent were alive after two years. However, data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database of the National Cancer Institute, which includes treatment results from a cross section of hospitals in the United States, shows survival rates at six months and two years of 26 percent and 5 percent respectively.
Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to treat because it almost always has spread to other major organs and blood vessels by the time doctors detect it, explains Texas Oncology. This makes surgical removal of the tumor, which is the best chance of a cure, nearly impossible. Treatment goals usually consist of controlling the spread of the cancer with radiation and chemotherapy, maintaining nutrition and controlling pain. However, as of 2015, several ongoing clinical trials evaluate promising new treatment options, such as proton-beam radiation therapy, growth-factor inhibitors and cancer vaccines, the American Cancer Society reports.