Although it may not be possible to prevent pancreatic cancer, you can reduce your risk for developing the disease by not smoking. Lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, following a healthy diet, and being physically active may also reduce your risk for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer can be cured only if it is found at an early stage, before it has spread to other parts of the body. However, about 80% to 90% of people with pancreatic cancer have advanced disease by the time it is diagnosed. For advanced disease, treatment cannot cure the cancer but may improve the quality of life and extend life.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Your treatment plan will depend on your general health, the stage of the cancer, and whether the tumour can be surgically removed.
Surgery to remove the cancer is usually the first choice for treatment. The following are different types of surgery to remove pancreatic cancer:
- whipple procedure: This surgery is performed if the tumour is in the head of the pancreas (the widest part). The head of the pancreas and part of the small intestine, bile duct, and stomach are removed.
- distal pancreatectomy: The body and tail of the pancreas are removed if the tumour is located in one of these two areas. The spleen is also removed.
- total pancreatectomy: the entire pancreas, part of the small intestine, part of the stomach, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, the spleen, and nearby lymph nodes are removed.
Some surgical procedures are performed to help with symptoms when pancreatic cancer cannot be completely removed. A metal tube or stent can be placed into the bile duct to prevent or relieve a blockage. Bypass procedures may help when the bile duct or stomach is blocked.
After surgery, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy (treatment with medications that kill cancer cells) or radiation therapy (high-energy X-rays that kill cancer cells). These treatments may also be used in those cases where surgery is not possible due to the location of the cancer.
If cure or control of the disease isn't possible, treatment will focus on improving quality of life by controlling pain and other problems and symptoms caused by the disease.
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