Increasing the survival odds for patients with pancreatic cancer has long been a concern for healthcare professionals. After all, this form of cancer is notoriously difficult to beat. With a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, the disease is one of cancer’s deadliest. Some clinicians are arguing that it is well past time for neoadjuvant therapy to play a role in treatment of this form of cancer.

Neoadjuvant therapy involves interventions that are given before surgery. These treatments may include chemotherapy, chemoradiotherpay or a combination of the two. The idea behind the use of neoadjuvant therapy in cancer treatment is to help make surgery more successful in most cases. For example, inoperable tumors may shrink to the point of being considered operable when this type of therapy is introduced in other cancers.

At present, the standard course of treatment when pancreatic cancer is diagnosed is surgery followed by adjuvant therapy. While adjuvant therapy may play a role, some clinicians argue it may not offer the edge needed to improve outcomes. Surgery along, they argue, is also a poor choice since the five-year survival rate is only about 10 percent. Adjuvant therapy may increase this, but some patients may never live long enough to receive it.

Those in favor of neoadjuvant therapy argue it may provide such benefits as:

* Reducing unnecessary surgeries -In highly aggressive forms of pancreatic cancer, surgery may simply not be an option. Neoadjuvant therapy added into the routine may offer more insight into cancer type, enabling doctors to more readily see that surgery may not be the best option.

* Improving surgical outcomes – The goal in cancer surgery is to remove all cancerous cells in a single operation. It is believed that neoadjuvant therapy may increase the odds of this occurring by beginning the process of killing off cancer cells before surgery takes place.

* Enhance the understanding of pancreatic cancer – Some clinicians believe neoadjuvant therapy may also increase understanding of this disease’s biology. While studies and consistent treatment definitions are required, this prospect opens the door to more insights into the disease.

An estimated 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. About 41,000 of them will die. This form of cancer is considered among the deadliest because it often presents with few symptoms at first, making early detection and intervention difficult. Whether neoadjuvant therapy will help change outcomes remains to be seen, but some clinicians say it is time for this option to play a role in treatment. Patients who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer should discuss all treatment options with their healthcare providers.

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