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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Pancreatic Cancer, Version 1.2017


Cancer treatments

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

listed in

Guide 3

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

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

someone else.

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.



Radiation therapy

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

feeling hungry.



Targeted therapy

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.