Medical Services • Pancreas Care
Treatment and Therapies
Experienced in the most complex pancreatic cancer and pancreatic disease treatments
At Northwest Community Hospital, we have the medical expertise and technology necessary to tackle even the most difficult pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, and liver and bile duct cancer cases. In fact, we provide pancreatic cancer patients with the best treatment in Chicago.
Treatment for pancreatitis
Treatment for acute pancreatitis requires a few days’ stay in the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics and medication to relieve pain. To allow the pancreas to rest, the patient is not allowed to eat or drink. Unless complications arise, acute pancreatitis usually resolves in a few days. In severe cases, the patient may require feeding via a tube for several weeks while the pancreas heals.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer
We are proud to offer pancreatic cancer patients the best treatment in Chicago. Surgery is the only way to remove pancreatic tumors. It is performed only when the surgeon believes all of the cancer can be removed, which generally applies only to early stages of the cancer. An ultrasound of the liver or exploratory surgery generally is performed to determine the stage of your cancer or to look for signs of metastatic disease. If the cancer is in a later stage, surgery is performed only to relieve symptoms such as pain and obstructions.
The type of surgery recommended depends upon where your tumor is located in the pancreas. Tumors located in the head and neck area of the pancreas are removed with the Whipple procedure; those in the body and tail of the pancreas are removed with distal pancreatectomy. Occasionally a total pancreatectomy is required, though it is used less commonly.
- Whipple procedure or pancreaticoduodenectomy is the most common operation performed for pancreatic cancer symptoms because it both increases survival rates and offers a real chance at a cure, making it the best treatment in Chicago. It is also used in the treatment of other types of cancer, including small bowel cancer. Surgeons remove the head of the pancreas, parts of the stomach and small intestine, some lymph nodes, the gallbladder and the common bile duct. The remaining organs are reconnected in a new way to allow for digestion. Patients leave the hospital in an average of 14 days.
- Total pancreatectomy is performed infrequently because lifelong adverse effects may result. In this surgery, surgeons remove the entire pancreas, bile duct, gallbladder and spleen, and possibly portions of the small intestine, stomach and nearby lymph nodes.
- Distal pancreatectomyis performed to remove tumors of the body and tail of the pancreas. The tail of the pancreas can be removed with the main portion of the organ left intact. This surgery is commonly performed for patients with chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic tumors localized in the end of the pancreas, pancreatic pseudocysts or injury due to trauma. The spleen is usually removed during this surgery because of the close proximity of the organs. This procedure eliminates the need for surgical reconstruction.
Other pancreatic cancer treatments
Depending on the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread, non-surgical treatments may be recommended instead of surgery or in addition to it. At NCH, we're committed to doing whatever it takes to provide pancreatic cancer patients with the best treatment in Chicago.
- Radiation therapy is recommended for patients who have localized pancreatic cancers that cannot be removed. It may also be recommended either following surgery or before. High-dose radiation is directed toward the pancreas to destroy cancer cells and reduce a tumor's size. NCH radiation oncologists use bi-plane angiography to provide 3-D imaging that delivers radiation to the area of the pancreas cancer and lymph node sites at risk, while protecting important organs such as the kidneys, spinal cord and liver. Sometimes radiation therapy may be delivered with electrons during surgery in a process called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). This may be an option for patients whose cancer appears to be borderline resectable or unresectable based on images of the tumor.
- Chemotherapy is usually recommended if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It is sometimes combined with radiation therapy to enhance the local effects of radiation. Additional cycles of chemotherapy may be given after the combined chemoradiation, in an attempt to prevent the cancer from spreading elsewhere in the body.
- Palliative surgery is performed if the pancreas cancer has spread and removing the tumor is not an option. Other surgical procedures may be used to relieve symptoms such as jaundice, nausea, vomiting and pain.
To make sure that you have access to the latest and most advanced medical treatments for pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis, we also participate in national research programs and clinical trials.
If you or someone you love has pancreatic cancer, find out how you can get the best treatment in Chicago. Call the Illinois Center for Pancreatic and Hepatobiliary Diseases for a referral to a doctor specializing in pancreatic or hepatobiliary diseases at 847.483.9400.