The pancreas is a small gland in the upper abdomen, behind the stomach. It helps break down food by releasing digestive enzymes, and secretes hormones (especially insulin) to control blood sugar levels.
Most pancreatic cancers start in the cells that produce digestive enzymes. As these tumors grow, they can invade nearby organs – the bile duct, intestine or stomach – as well as nearby blood vessels. Cancer cells can also break away and spread to lymph nodes and other, distant organs, such as the liver.
In the United States, over 40,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma every year. It is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death. Unfortunately, because this cancer does not cause symptoms in its early stages, the diagnosis is usually only made after it has spread beyond the pancreas.
Patients do not usually have symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer.
Some symptoms that may occur include:
Keep in mind that these symptoms can be caused by other health problems that are more common than pancreatic cancer.
USA Mitchell Cancer Institute provides comprehensive, compassionate and personalized care for all patients with pancreatic cancer.
Diagnostic tests may include
Pancreatic cancer can be assigned one of the following four stages:
Your treatment will likely include a combination of different therapies. Our multidisciplinary approach to pancreatic cancer ensures that surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists discuss you and your cancer before treatment starts. This allows selection of the optimal combination and timing of various therapies.
When a pancreatic tumor can be removed safely, an operation is the best chance to improve survival.
Chemotherapy (also called systemic therapy) is a drug or combination of drugs that are given to kill cancer cells wherever they are in the body. In pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy has been shown to improve survival. It can be given to patients in conjunction with radiation, before or after an operation, or to treat patients whose cancer has spread to organs beyond the pancreas.
Radiation therapy is often used in combination with surgery and chemotherapy. By shrinking tumors, it can allow an operation to be performed, it can be used after an operation has removed the tumor, and it can also be used to relieve pain when the tumor cannot be safely removed.
Controlling symptoms of cancer and side effects of therapies is a critical part of your treatment. We aim to not only extend your survival but maintain your quality of life.
© 2018 USA Health System