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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer affects approximately 60,000 people in the United States each year. Thankfully, advances and new treatment options for patients with the disease have made the outlook for many more promising. Pancreatic cancer starts in the tissues of the pancreas. There are several types of growths that can form to be either cancerous or noncancerous tumors. A common type of pancreatic cancer is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, which forms in the cells lining the ducts carrying enzymes out of the pancreas.

The Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers at Smilow Cancer Hospital offers patients easy access to specialized care, including new approaches to the treatment of the disease through clinical trials and targeted treatments when possible. Our program includes experts in diagnostic imaging, pathology, gastroenterology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, genetic counseling, and supportive services. As a multispecialty program, we are dedicated to providing our patients with cutting-edge technology for the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of their cancer. Members of the team meet regularly to discuss each case and to develop a unique, comprehensive treatment plan for each patient, in consultation with the patient's referring physician.

Symptoms

Often symptoms do not appear until pancreatic cancer has spread to other organs. These symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Blood clots
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • New or worsening diabetes
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Yellowing of skin (jaundice)

Diagnosis

Physicians consider family history of cancer, rapid onset of diabetes, pancreatic cysts, and the presence of predisposing genetic mutations when diagnosing and ordering tests. Most people have very non-specific symptoms.

In order to diagnose pancreatic cancer, the following tests may be performed:

  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Imaging tests (CT scan, MRI, positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Tissue biopsy

Our Pancreatic Cancer Early Detection Clinic manages individuals through comprehensive risk assessment, education and screening for those found with a high risk of developing pancreas cancer. Patients with an increased risk can have a consultative visit to learn more about pancreas cancer screening. We can also assist with arranging consultations with other specialists for a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention and surveillance. 

Treatment

Pancreatic cancer treatment depends on the stage, location of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. For some patients treatment may be a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. In treating pancreatic cancer, expertise matters. We have the resources to give our patients access to:

  • Chemotherapy regimens
  • Clinical trials
  • Genetic profiling
  • Interventional radiology and endoscopy
  • Radiation treatment