Pancreatic Cancer: How We Plan Your Treatment

Memorial Sloan Kettering offers a wide spectrum of care for people with pancreatic cancer. For many patients, receiving more than one kind of therapy – including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy – is the most effective way to combat pancreatic cancer. The treatments your doctors recommend and the therapeutic goals we pursue will depend on the size and location of your tumor, any previous treatment you might have received, and your personal priorities.

Treatment for Pancreatic Cysts and Precancerous Lesions

Treatment of benign pancreatic cysts and precancerous lesions is aimed at preventing them from becoming cancerous. Periodic surveillance with imaging tests is usually recommended to monitor these lesions for signs of progression. Surgery may be appropriate to remove lesions that appear precancerous. Learn more about our approach to the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cysts.

Treatment for Localized Pancreatic Tumors

Surgery is generally recommended for the 5 to 15 percent of patients who have localized tumors that are confined to the pancreas and do not involve major blood vessels. Following the operation, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is usually given to help prevent the cancer from returning.

Treatment for Locally Advanced Tumors

Approximately 30 to 40 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have locally advanced tumors. Surgery to remove these tumors is not advised because there may be extensive involvement of major blood vessels. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often used to shrink locally advanced tumors and control their progression. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, this approach shrinks tumors enough to permit surgery for some patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer. 

Treatment for Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

For people with advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can help to prolong life, manage pain or discomfort, and improve quality of life.