NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Pancreatic Cancer, Version 1.2017
Targeted therapy | Side effects
Chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer can be given
as a pill taken by mouth or as a liquid that is slowly
injected into a vein. Most of the chemotherapy drugs
are given as injections. How long
it takes to give the chemotherapy injection depends
on which chemotherapy you receive.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles of treatment days
followed by days of rest. These cycles vary in length
depending on which drugs are used. Often, the
cycles are 14, 21, or 28 days long. These cycles
give the body a chance to recover before the next
treatment. Thus, chemotherapy treatment includes
some days without treatment.
Targeted therapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer.
Targeted therapy drugs target a specific or unique
feature of cancer cells not generally present in
normal cells. Because these drugs specifically target
cancer cells, they may be less likely to harm normal
cells throughout your body. Erlotinib is a targeted
therapy used for pancreatic cancer. It treats cancer
by blocking signals sent from the edge of a cancer
cell that tell the cell to grow. Erlotinib is used with
chemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer. It is a pill
that is taken by mouth and swallowed. It then travels
in the bloodstream to treat cancer throughout the
Side effects of treatment
Side effects are unplanned or unwanted physical or
emotional conditions caused by cancer treatment.
Each treatment for pancreatic cancer can cause
side effects, but how your body will respond can’t be
fully known. You may have different side effects than
Controlling side effects is important for your quality
of life. There are many ways to limit these problems.
However, listing all the ways is beyond the scope of
this book. In general, changes in behavior, diet, or
medications may help. Tell your treatment team if you
have any side effects. It is important they know how
you are feeling.
may cause weakness, tiredness, and
pain. Other common side effects are difficulty
digesting food, diabetes, leakage of pancreatic
fluids, and surgical scars.
may not cause side
effects until after the first few visits. Over
time, you may have discomfort in your belly
area (abdomen). Other common side effects
are nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and not feeling
side effects depend on the
drug, amount taken, length of treatment, and
the person. In general, side effects are caused
by the death of fast-growing cells, which are
found in the gut, mouth, and blood. As a result,
common side effects include diarrhea, nausea,
vomiting, mouth sores, tiredness or weakness,
numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, skin
and nail changes, hair loss, swelling, and not
side effects depend on the
drug and what it targets. Common side effects
of erlotinib are skin rash, diarrhea, nausea,
feeling tired, and not feeling hungry. The rash
may appear on the face, neck, or trunk of the
body within the first 2 weeks of treatment.
Not all of the side effects of cancer treatment are
listed here. Ask your treatment team for a full list of
side effects of any treatment you consider.