Learn about Chemotherapy Agents Used for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is often called a silent killer. The reason behind this moniker is that the cancer mostly doesn’t present symptoms in the early stages, and in the later stages the symptoms are varied and nonspecific. So, by the time it is diagnosed, it is mostly in an advanced stage, reducing the chance of recovery. When diagnosed, there are some treatment options, the most common being chemotherapy. There are different chemotherapy agents used for pancreatic cancer treatment, which will be discussed here.

Fluorouracil

Fluorouracil is an anti-metabolite, a group of chemotherapy drugs similar to normal body molecules, but with a slightly different structure. This slight structural difference means that they will stop cells from working properly. Fluorouracil is administered as an intravenous injection or drip in a course of several treatments. Some common side effects are:

  • Increased risk of infection caused by the drop in white blood cells.
  • Fatigue as a result of a drop in red blood cells.
  • Easy bruising resulting from a drop in blood platelets.
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild Nausea
  • Hair thinning
  • Rashes
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of appetite

Capecitabine

This as a tablet form of fluorouracil and is also called Xeloda. The tablets should be taken twice a day with plenty of water no more than 30 minutes after a meal. Capecitabine is changed into fluorouracil by the body and is also a course of several treatments.

The side effects of this drug are generally the same as for fluorouracil.

Gemcitabine

Also an anti-metabolite, gemcitabine stops cells from properly working and is administered through an intravenous drip. The infusion usually takes a half hour and is taken as a course of several treatments. The most common side effects are:

  • Increased risk of infection caused by the drop in white blood cells.
  • Fatigue as a result of a drop in red blood cells.
  • Easy bruising resulting from a drop in blood platelets.
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Raised temperature
  • Swelling of the face
  • Loss of fertility
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Hair thinning

Cisplatin

Cisplatin is a platinum-based drug. The metal platinum, which can be found at the center of the drug molecules, forms DNA cross links which damage the cancer cells. It is administered into the bloodstream through an intravenous drip, or through a central line, which is a long, plastic tube that delivers the drug directly into a large vein in your chest. The tube remains in place as long as you need it. It is a course of several treatments. Common side effects are:

  • Increased risk of infection caused by the drop in white blood cells.
  • Fatigue as a result of a drop in red blood cells.
  • Easy bruising resulting from a drop in blood platelets.
  • Severe nausea
  • Kidney damage
  • Hearing loss, specifically high tones
  • Loss of fertility
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of taste
  • Numbness or tingling in fingers and toes

Combination

In most cases, these chemotherapy agents used for pancreatic cancer treatment are combined with radiotherapy or surgery. Despite the side effects, they are still the best option to overcome this type of cancer.

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