We are achieving better outcomes

While incidences of pancreatic cancer are on the rise, YNHH's mortality rate for surgery for this devastating disease has fallen to less than 2% over the past decade.

Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all malignancies. With its propensity to invade surrounding lymph nodes early on, but not present symptoms until the disease has spread significantly, up to 60% of patients have advanced pancreatic cancer at the time of diagnosis. As the number of diagnoses steadily increase—there were over 37,000 new cases in the U.S. in 2008 according to the National Cancer Institute—the need to better understand what causes and how to effectively treat this devastating disease is more urgent than ever.

New Hope, Better Outcomes

Early detection, accurate diagnosis and appropriate intervention of pancreatic cancer are the keys to survival. Innovative research being done at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven has led to many advances in treating this disease. The combination of leading-edge diagnostic techniques, refined surgical procedures and effective drug therapies available gives new hope to patients and families. In fact, as the national survival rate for pancreatic cancer declines, our success in treating the disease continues to increase.

Success with Surgery

Advances in medicine are improving outcomes for pancreatic cancer. Yet surgery—namely the Whipple procedure, in which specific parts of the stomach, gall bladder and its cystic duct, bile duct, head of the pancreas, duodenum, small intestines and regional lymph nodes are removed or other segmental resections —remain the only potential cure. Once high definition CT, MRI and endoscopic ultrasound diagnostics rule out metastatic disease and the involvement of the celiac axis, superior mesenteric vein, portal vein or hepatic artery, or pre-operative therapy successfully downstages the disease, a patient becomes eligible for the procedure. Results are best in large centers with sufficient expertise and cutting-edge tools and technology for diagnosing the disease, selecting candidates and managing post-operative care—like Smilow Cancer Hospital.

Physician Spotlight

Ronald R. Salem, MD, Oncology Section Chief, Department of Surgery at YNHH; Gastrointestinal Cancers Program Leader at Smilow Cancer Hospital; and Lampman Professor of Surgery and Oncology at Yale School of Medicine, has remained at the forefront of treating pancreatic cancer for over 20 years. His experience and expertise with this and other gastrointestinal (GI) cancers is nearly unparalleled in the state. Among the many honors he has received are a variety of distinguished teaching awards and recognition as one of the New York metro area's "Top Minimally Invasive Surgeons" (2002) and "Best Doctors" (1998-2000, 2003-2010) in annual lists compiled by New York Magazine. The results of his innovative, collaborative research studies—as reported in prestigious publications such as Annals of Surgery and Annals of Surgical Oncology—have contributed to many of the recent advances made in treating a variety of GI cancers.