On This Page:
- What Is a Treatment Plan?
- Why Is a Treatment Plan Important for Pancreatic Cancer?
- Who Creates a Treatment Plan?
- What Is Considered When Creating a Treatment Plan?
- Setting Treatment Goals
- Plan After Treatment
- Following the Plan
What Is a Treatment Plan?
A treatment or care plan is a written document that helps patients and their healthcare teams understand the care a patient will get.
Before starting treatment, patients should talk to their healthcare team about their treatment goals and know all their options. A treatment plan will help ensure the goals are considered and met.
A treatment plan includes:
- Information about your diagnosis
- Your treatment goals
- Treatment names, treatment types and alternate options
- Possible side effects
- Treatment length
- Challenges to alert your healthcare team about, such as side effects, emotional concerns, insurance and financial aid needs
- Contact information for your healthcare team and support resources
- Follow-ups needed
This plan addresses cancer-fighting treatment as well as treatment to control symptoms and side effects, including complementary therapies. But it is not a complete medical record.
The treatment plan may be updated with any changes throughout the patient’s journey.
Why Is a Treatment Plan Important for Pancreatic Cancer?
A pancreatic cancer diagnosis comes with many questions and uncertainties. Many patients believe they must decide quickly on treatment based on their doctor’s recommendation. But patients should take the time to understand their choices and figure out their own treatment goals.
Having a written treatment plan helps:
- Patients and their healthcare teams talk through patient goals and treatment options
- Patients and their loved ones better understand their cancer care
- Patients keep records of key treatment and diagnosis information for later reference
Who Creates a Treatment Plan?
The healthcare team plays an important role, but the patient should be at the forefront of treatment decisions. This is a shared decision-making process.
The Doctor’s Role
The doctor’s role is to give you expert medical information. The doctor:
- Explains treatment options
- Answers your questions
- Recommends treatment based on their experience and medical knowledge
- Helps you understand how treatments fit with your treatment goals
- Coordinates with the rest of the healthcare team to ensure all needs are met, including dietary, emotional, spiritual and financial
When recommending treatment, your doctor will take into account your:
- Overall health
- Additional health conditions
- Earlier treatments
The doctor will also consider both the benefits and the risks of each treatment option.
You should feel comfortable and supported by your healthcare team. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends seeking a healthcare team that suits all of your physical, mental and emotional needs.
The Patient’s Role
Patients take the information the doctor gives them and decide what to do. Patients should think about their goals and always be a partner in creating the treatment plan.
If your healthcare team has not talked to you about your treatment goals, start the discussion yourself.
You are your own best advocate. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends that you discuss your treatment goals with your healthcare team and know all of your options at every stage of your disease.
When deciding on pancreatic cancer treatment, consider and talk to your doctor about:
Communicate openly with your healthcare team. Ask questions at any time. And if you are unhappy with the discussion or proposed treatment plan, get a second opinion.
Contact PanCAN Patient Services for free information about treatment options and resources to help you have productive conversations with your healthcare team.
And you do not have to do this alone. You have support beyond the doctor – including loved ones, social workers and patient navigators – who can help you consider your options.
The Family’s Role
Family members need to support their loved one’s goals and decisions, whether or not they agree with them.
You can support your loved one by:
- Asking about their wants and needs
- Asking the doctor questions about the options
- Getting more information about treatments the patient is considering and side effects they worry about
- Helping them consider the choices, keeping their goals in mind
- Discussing the topic with a social worker or other professional counselor if needed
PanCAN Patient Services can help you guide conversations and understand treatment options. They can also connect you with other patients’ family members for one-on-one peer support.
What Is Considered When Creating a Treatment Plan?
To create a treatment plan, patients and their healthcare team must think about and balance many factors, like:
- Treatment goals
- Diagnosis, including pancreatic cancer type, stage of the disease and whether (and where) the cancer has spread
- Molecular profiling results (if available)
- Symptoms and side effects
- Medical history
- All treatments available, including clinical trials
- Potential benefits of each treatment
- Any integrative, complementary or alternative medicine (ICAM) used, which may affect a treatment’s success or side effects
- Overall health
- Quality of life, including emotional and spiritual considerations
Your doctor will also consider the current National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Guidelines for Treatment, which have also been adapted into NCCN Guidelines for Patients.
Setting Treatment Goals
Think about what is important to you. For example, you may want to treat the cancer aggressively, or you may want to focus on quality of life and symptom control.
Ask yourself these questions to figure out your treatment goals and discuss them with your doctor:
- What is most important to me about my treatment?
- What is most important in my life as I manage this diagnosis?
- How much information do I want to know about my diagnosis? Prognosis? Treatment plan?
- Where can I go for support?
- Are there any obstacles to my care?
- If I choose to start treatment, what can I expect?
- Treatment requirements
- How treatment will affect your daily life
- What the treatment is trying to do (slow cancer growth, get rid of cancer, lessen side effects)
- Side effects and ways they may be controlled
Then talk to your doctors about these goals. Work with them to create a treatment plan that matches your wants and needs.
Have conversations about your treatment goals with loved ones and your healthcare team often. It is OK if the treatment plan changes. That is a normal part of the process.
It may help to discuss treatment goals with a social worker or other professional counselor.
Plan After Treatment
Treatment plans also include a care plan for after treatment, sometimes called a survivorship plan. This includes:
- Follow-up visits
- Follow-up tests
- Information about side effects that can still happen after treatment is over
- Resources for issues that may come up
Following the Plan
Once the treatment plan is created, the patient needs to:
- Follow the agreed-upon treatment plan
- Follow the healthcare team’s directions on how to take medicines
- Make and keep treatment and follow-up appointments
- Tell the healthcare team about challenges along the way
- Tell the healthcare team if they add any other treatments, supplements, medicines or activities, which may affect the treatment’s success or side effects
- Communicate if changes are needed to the plan
We’re Here to Help
For more free information about pancreatic cancer treatment and resources to help inform your treatment plan, contact PanCAN Patient Services. We can also give you a list of doctors near you who specialize in pancreatic cancer and can help you know your options.
Explore treatment options, including standard treatments and clinical trials.
Understand how patients can take an active role in their care.
Communicating with Your Healthcare Team
Learn how to improve discussions with your doctors.
Information reviewed by PanCAN’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, who are experts in the field from such institutions as University of Pennsylvania, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center and more.