Pancreatic cancer

CISS relies strongly in its evaluations below on impartial analyses by the International Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal’s Clinical Evidence Group – two groups of researchers who specialise in Evidence Based Medicine.

Conventional medicine supports the paradigm that states that the tumour is the first stage of cancer; therefore treating and removing the cancer should cure the cancer. Unfortunately statistics show this is rarely the case. Conventional medicine also advocates treatment should only be used if supported by appropriate clinical trials showing efficacy. Evidence based medicine suggests that the only reliable evidence for efficacy comes from properly run randomised controlled trials (RCTs). As mentioned below, none of the RCTs evaluating conventional intervention for cancer have shown any clear benefit. Therefore the conventional cancer paradigm needs to be questioned.

Much of the following descriptions are based on the conventional cancer paradigm with comments from CISS inserted where claims have not been established.

The US National Cancer Institute states that “Cancer is a genetic disease—that is, it is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. Genetic changes that cause cancer can be inherited from our parents. They can also arise during a person’s lifetime as a result of errors that occur as cells divide or because of damage to DNA caused by certain environmental exposures. (There is little evidence for this claim – CISS)

The pancreas is a gland about 150mm long that is shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine.

The pancreas has two main jobs in the body:

  • To make juices that help digest (break down) food;
  • To make hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, that help control blood sugar levels. Both of these hormones help the body use and store the energy it gets from food.

There are two kinds of cells in the pancreas:

  • Exocrine pancreas cells make enzymes that are released into the small intestine to help the body digest food.
  • Neuroendocrine pancreas cells (such as islet cells) make several hormones, including insulin and glucagon, that help control sugar levels in the blood.

The digestive juices are made by exocrine pancreas cells and the hormones are made by endocrine pancreas cells. About 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells. These tumours do not secrete hormones and do not cause signs or symptoms. This makes it hard to diagnose this type of pancreatic cancer early. For most patients with exocrine pancreatic cancer there is a poor prognosis.

Some types of malignant pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, such as islet cell tumours, have a better prognosis than pancreatic exocrine cancers. (NCI)

In Australia pancreatic cancers account for about 2% of cancers diagnosed and about 4% of deaths.

Signs and Symptoms:

Pancreatic cancer may not cause early signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms may be caused by pancreatic cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Light-coloured stools
  • Dark urine
  • Pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling very tired.

Risks: The following factors are claimed to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Being very overweight
  • Having a personal history of diabetes or chronic pancreatitis
  • Having a family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis
  • Having certain hereditary conditions, such as:
  •    Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome
  •    Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch syndrome)
  •    von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
  •    Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
  •    Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome
  •    Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome.

Risk factors are usually based on correlation factors between lifestyle and cancer incidence so there is rarely any causal factor established (CISS).


Surgery: It is claimed that pancreatic cancer can be controlled by complete surgical removal if it is found before it has spread.

(Note: There is little evidence that surgery for pancreatic has any benefit on increased percentage 5 year survival or reduced mortality as there has never been a randomised controlled trial to demonstrate such benefits. (The Efficacy of surgical treatment of cancer – 20 years later, DJ Benjamin).

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is often used after surgery. It is claimed to help lower the risk of the cancer coming back. This is known as adjuvant chemotherapy. If it wasn’t possible to remove all the cancer, the chemotherapy may help to shrink what was left behind. You are most likely to have gemcitabine or fluorouracil (5-FU) chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is sometimes used after surgery, sometimes with or following the chemotherapy.

(Note: There is little evidence of any significant benefit from using chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer – CISS)

Early detection: Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose for the following reasons:

  • There aren’t any noticeable signs or symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer
  • The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, when present, are like the signs and symptoms of many other illnesses
  • The pancreas is hidden behind other organs such as the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and bile ducts.

Overdiagnosis: There is little overdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer because there are few tests used that find signs of pancreatic cancer when looking for reasons of other problems.

Before deciding on one of these treatments you would benefit from asking your physician three questions:

Question 1: What are my treatment options? – these should include doing nothing.

Question 2: What are the possible outcomes of those options? – including benefits and side effects.

Question 3: How likely is each of the outcomes to occur? 

If you feel your doctor or other health practitioner is not able to answer these questions, or shows that he or she is not comfortable with you asking these question, it suggests they are not practising evidence based medicine and you should consider getting another opinion.

These three questions can be expanded.

Alternative Cancer Therapies

Another paradigm states that cancer is a systemic disease and the tumour is only a late stage symptom, element or manifestation of that disease. Therefore treating the disease should be systemic and wholistic (meaning treating the whole body) and should include the following principles:

  1. Treatment should cause no harm
  2. Treatment should be Wholistic (ie consider the whole person – body, mind, emotions and spirit)
  3. The person with cancer needs to take control of their own health. This latter paradigm is supported by CISS (See Introduction to CISS)

Alternative cancer therapies are generally consistent with the above principles. In fact those believed to be the most effective in controlling cancer – psychotherapy and immunotherapy – also have the strongest supporting evidence from randomised controlled trials.

There are approximately 200 alternative cancer therapies that have been shown or anecdotally reported to help a person with cancer and have reduced morbidity and mortality. The following are those used for pancreatic cancer with the most scientific evidence for benefit. What is important in any cancer treatment is to both understand and believe in your chosen therapy.

There are very few alternative cancer therapies claimed to produce benefits with pancreatic cancer. Those claimed to have the most benefits include:

  • Psychotherapy

One of the RCTs evaluating psychotherapy concluded the following: “The results of this study indicate that patients with gastrointestinal cancer, who undergo surgery for stomach, pancreatic, primary liver, or colorectal cancer, benefit from a formal program of psychotherapeutic support during the inpatient hospital stay in terms of long-term survival.”1

  • Immunotherapy

Iscador (Mistletoe extract): One of the RCTs evaluating Iscador concluded the following: “An interim analysis of a randomised phase III trial reported on 220 patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer… Treatment with Iscador demonstrated a significant enhancement of overall survival (OS) (4.8 months vs. 2.7 months for IscadorQu patients vs. control patients, respectively; prognosis-adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 0.49; P < .0001).2

(Note: This Hazard Ratio (HR) means an approximately 51% reduction in mortality at the conclusion of the trial as result of treatment. It does not necessarily mean treatment results in long- term survival – CISS)

  • Issels Wholebody Therapy

Although not based on RCTs the most successful therapy for late stage cancers was Issels’ Whole Body Therapy that focussed on restoring the body’s immune systems.

It was estimated that a representative sample, 252 of Issels’ patients with late stage cancers of whom 3 had late stage pancreatic cancer, showed a 16.6% five-year survival following his treatment. This compares with less than 5% with standard treatment at the time. They also experienced a 15% 15-year survival compared with less than 2% for standard treatment.

References: (Issels, J. Immunotherapy in Progressive Metastatic Cancer – A Fifteen-Year Follow-up. Clinical Trials Journal, August 1970: 357-365 – editorial by Phillips S. Dr Joseph Issels and the Ringberg Klinik. Clinical Trials Journal. August 1970: 355-56.)

  • a special diet based on metabolic typing developed by William Donald Kelley, who claimed to have cured himself of pancreatic cancer by using his dietary principles. See below under Metabolic Typing.

For pancreatic cancer, Ralph Moss, Cancer Therapy, The Independent Consumers Guide to Non-Toxic Treatment and Prevention, reports the following alternative therapy has been shown to benefit.

  1. Metabolic typing – This is a term used to describe a particular unconventional approach to treating cancer developed by Texas orthodontist William Donald Kelley as interpreted by Nicholas J Gonzales MD and used on his cancer patients. Kelley claimed to have cured himself of pancreatic cancer by using his dietary principles.

Commenting on the Gonzalez’s treatment, Robert Houston, author of Repression and Reform in the Evaluation of Alternative Cancer Therapies writes “The survival of five or more years for all five pancreatic patients on the full program is extremely significant statistically compared to the standard five year survival of three percent.”


There are no specific treatments designed to prevent pancreatic cancer. However there are several general approaches that are suggested might be useful in preventing all types of cancers.

Based on the above information it would seem that preventing cancer, including pancreatic cancer, involves mainly dealing with the emotional causes of cancer. See Cancer Prevention.

Choosing the right treatment for you

If you or someone close to you has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer it is important that you research and understand your chosen treatment, whether that be conventional, alternative or a mixture of both. For the best results your treatment should include physical , mental, emotional / psychological and spiritual treatments.

If you don’t know where to begin in your journey to wellness then we suggest you read Where To Start. This provides an introduction to the alternative approach to treating cancer and also information about some evidenced based alternative cancer treatments.


  1. Küchler T et al. Impact of psychotherapeutic support for patients with gastrointestinal cancer undergoing surgery: 10-year survival results of a randomised trial J Clin Oncol. 2007 Jul 1;25(19):2702-8. Erratum in: J Clin Oncol. (Sep 20) 2007; 25 (27): 4328.
  2. Tröger W et al. Viscum album [L.] extract therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer: a randomised clinical trial on overall survival. Eur J Cancer 2013; 49 (18): 3788-97.


Show Buttons
Hide Buttons