The type of treatment you’re offered depends on the type and stage of your pancreatic cancer, plus your overall health.
However, treatment for the different types of exocrine pancreatic cancer is generally the same, and surgery is most often the main treatment.
Surgery to remove pancreatic cancer
This is a common treatment for stage 1 and stage 2 pancreatic cancer. Your surgeon will only do this if you’re fit enough and they think it will be possible to remove all the cancer.
Surgery to relieve your symptoms
Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed too late for surgery to be an effective option to remove the cancer. But surgery can help to relieve symptoms like jaundice or sickness.
Relieving symptoms with stents
A stent is a small tube used to relieve blockages. Your consultant will guide the stent into a blocked bile duct to help it stay open. This will enable bile to drain and help to improve any symptoms of jaundice.
Sometimes pancreatic cancer can block the top of your small bowel. If this happens, food can’t pass along the bowel and so it builds up in the stomach. This build up makes you sick – but bypass surgery can help to alleviate these symptoms.
If you have had surgery to remove your cancer you might need chemotherapy to lower the risk of the cancer coming back. Or if your cancer is advanced, you might need chemotherapy to shrink the cancer and relieve your symptoms.
It’s quite uncommon to use radiotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer, but it may be offered in certain situations to help shrink the tumour or relieve symptoms instead of surgery.
You’ll have regular check-ups following your treatment. How often and for how long depends on the kind of pancreatic cancer treatment that you had.
At follow-up appointments, your doctor will ask how you’re feeling and examine you and you may need a combination of tests which can include blood tests, a CT scan or ultrasound scan.
If you’re worried or spot any new symptoms between appointments, you should tell your doctor or liver consultant as soon as you can.
Paying for your treatment
You have two options to pay for your treatment – your costs may be covered by your private medical insurance, or you can pay for yourself.
Check with your private medical insurer to see if your diagnostic costs are covered under your medical insurance policy.
If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation.
Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the consultants’ fees and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Want to know more?
If you’d like to read more about pancreatic cancer, treatment or living with pancreatic cancer, please visit cancerresearchuk.org.uk.