Proton Therapy for Pancreatic Cancers

Cancers Treated: Pancreatic Tumors

Prancreatic Cancer

The pancreas, an organ, is in the upper abdomen, located behind the stomach. One job of the pancreas is to make insulin to help control blood sugar levels and store energy from food. The pancreas’s other job is to help the body digest fat using special enzymes. Ninety-five percent of pancreatic cancers start in the enzyme-producing cells.

Pancreatic cancer by the numbers

Pancreatic cancer is increasingly common. More than 64,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and almost 51,000 will die from the disease. It accounts for three percent of all cancers, but seven percent of all cancer deaths. Pancreatic cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage. Often people have no symptoms until the tumor is very large or the cancer has already spread. The pancreas is located deep inside the body near the stomach and intestines, so these tumors typically aren’t seen or felt during routine physical exams. So far, there are no screening tests shown to lower the risk for dying from pancreatic cancer.

Why proton therapy?

Radiation therapy is a common treatment option for pancreatic cancer. About 20 percent of pancreatic cancers can be treated with surgery, but this is often not an option when cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Sometimes radiation treatments, of which proton therapy is a newer form, can be used to help shrink tumors that cannot be removed surgically. Sometimes radiation is used after surgery to help prevent a recurrence and is often combined with chemotherapy.

Traditional radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It has been used for decades as a treatment for pancreatic cancer, but its use is limited due to the risk of damage to surrounding healthy organs and tissue. Proton therapy can deliver targeted energy to tumors in the pancreas, with less radiation dose to the nearby organs such as the liver, kidneys, stomach, and intestines.

Because protons have no exit dose beyond the tumor area, it is easier for doctors to avoid the organs in front of the pancreas like the stomach. Avoiding the stomach and bowel can help reduce the risk of side effects like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Protons may also make it safer to give a higher, more focused dose to the tumor than can be safely given with more traditional X-rays that would damage a broader area of the abdomen. This is an area of active research and clinical trials may be available to help find new ways to treat this serious disease.

Request a Referral or Information Today Schedule An Appointment - (855) 697-7686


Learn More About Treatment of Pancreatic Cancers

Information from the National Cancer Institute

Includes information about pancreatic cancer, causes, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment.

Learn More: NCI