Comprehensive, high-tech pancreatic cancer care with the personal touch of a Nurse Navigator, designed to maximize your chances of recovery while minimizing treatment side effects
Our online Learning Center has up-to-date, evidence-based information about numerous topics related to pancreatic cancer, including diagnostic tests, treatment options, management of treatment side effects, and more.
These resources are not a substitute for the guidance of your physician but can help you learn more about pancreatic cancer and what to expect during treatment. All content is provided courtesy of the Mayo Clinic Health Library.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:
- upper abdomen pain that radiates to your back
- loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- new-onset diabetes
- blood clots
- yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to speak to your physician.
Early detection of cancer can be key to successful treatment, so it is important to understand what increases your risk of pancreatic cancer. Risk factors can include:
- chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- family history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk, including:
- a BRCA2 gene mutation
- Lynch syndrome
- Familial Atypical Mole-Malignant Melanoma (FAMMM) Syndrome
- family history of pancreatic cancer
- having obesity
- older age, after age 65
There are several different types of tests for pancreatic cancer.
- CA19-9 Blood Test: This blood test looks for the presence of certain proteins or tumor markers shed by pancreatic cancer cells. This test is not the gold standard but can provide useful information to your doctors.
- Biopsy: A small amount of tissue is removed from the pancreas. The doctor will then examine the tissue to check for abnormal and cancerous cells.
- Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS): The use of high-frequency sound waves to create images of the lining and walls of your digestive tract, chest, pancreas, liver, and lymph nodes.
- CT Scan: The combination of a series of x-rays to create detailed images of the inside of your abdomen and pelvis.
- MRI: This test uses magnetic waves to create pictures of the inside of the abdomen.
- PET Scan: A scan of the entire body to determine if cancer has spread elsewhere in your body. PET scans can sometimes detect disease before it shows up on other imaging tests.
The evidence-based treatment plan your doctors choose is based on several factors: type of cancer, grade, and stage of the cancer, your overall health, and your treatment preferences.
There are several surgical options for pancreatic cancer, and your doctor will determine which is best for you.
- Whipple Procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy): Removal of the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), the gallbladder, and part of the bile duct; may include part of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes. The remaining parts of your pancreas, stomach and intestines are reconnected so food can be digested.
- Distal Pancreatectomy: Removal of the body and tail of the pancreas.
- Total Pancreatectomy: Removal of the entire pancreas. Patients who have this surgery need to take insulin and enzymes for the rest of their lives.
Patients with advanced pancreatic cancer may not be eligible for a Whipple Procedure or other pancreatic surgeries. This is because the tumors may involve nearby blood vessels, making it too dangerous to remove the tumor surgically.
Chemotherapy for pancreatic cancers involves the use of medications to shrink or kill cancerous cells. In the case of pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery or in combination with radiation. It can also be used to control tumor growth and prolong life in more advanced cases of pancreatic cancer.
The board-certified medical oncologists, nurses, and technicians at Connecticut Oncology Group provide the most effective, advanced care with warm, personal attention and support for patients and their families. In addition, your medical oncology team will work closely with your other providers and help provide access to clinical trials.
Radiation oncology is the highly-controlled use of radiation to cure or treat your cancer symptoms.