How is pancreatic cancer treated?

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Surgery aims to remove the part of the pancreas containing the tumour. Surgery can only cure early stage pancreatic cancer. Read more about pancreatic cancer surgery


Chemotherapy is often used when surgery is not possible. It can help to shrink the cancer, control or improve your symptoms and give you a better quality of life. Your specialist nurse will give you a list of the chemotherapy drugs you will receive and explain the side-effects. Read more about chemotherapy.

Targeted therapies

These drugs target a specific action to destroy cells or to block the growth of cancer cells. They are different to chemotherapy and work to target a specific area. This means that they usually have fewer side-effects than chemotherapy drugs. Your medical team will discuss with you if there is a targeted therapy suitable to treat pancreatic cancer. Read more about targeted therapies.

External radiotherapy

This uses high-energy rays to kill the cancer cells. It can be given before surgery to shrink the tumour or after surgery to kill any cancer cells left behind to prevent the cancer coming back. Sometimes you have chemotherapy and radiotherapy together. 

With advanced cancer, radiotherapy can also help to ease pain or pressure. This is called palliative radiotherapy.

Read more about radiotherapy.

Treatment to relieve symptoms

Pancreatic cancer is often very advanced when it’s diagnosed and treatment will be shrink or control the cancer and relieve any symptoms rather than cure it.

Treatments include surgery such as stenting and bypass surgery if the tumour is causing a blockage. Other treatments include, chemotherapy, targeted therapies and / or radiotherapy. You may also have treatment as part of a clinical trial

We have more information on treatments to help with pancreatic cancer symptoms.

Will I get side-effects? 

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. 

Your specialist nurse will discuss possible side-effects with you before your treatment.  Read some tips to help you cope with different side-effects

For more information

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