Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a type of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer. The pancreas, located deep in your belly, behind the stomach, has a dual function. It produces hormones that regulate blood sugars and also produces enzymes that help break down and digest enzymes in food.

Detection And Prevention

The biggest risk factor for pancreatic cancer is cigarette smoking. In addition, chronic alcoholism can lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, which can lead to pancreatic cancer. Obesity and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes also are risk factors. Some people have family histories or inherited genetic syndromes that put them at greater risk. The incidence of pancreatic cancer increases with age; almost all patients are older than 45. Men and African Americans are slightly more likely to develop the disease.

You can help to prevent pancreatic cancer by avoiding tobacco and heavy alcohol use, watching your diet and body weight, and keeping type 2 diabetes under control. Currently there is no screening test for pancreatic cancer for people with no symptoms.

Diagnosis

Pancreatic cancer is hard to find early. As the tumor gets larger, it may cause one or more of these symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, possibly with dark urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

After taking a complete history and performing a physical examination, your doctor may order tests to look for pancreatic cancer. An additional test that can help to diagnose pancreatic cancer is ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram), a special X-ray study of the pancreatic duct and the common bile duct.

Treatment

We’ll consider the type, size, and stage of your pancreatic cancer, plus your age and overall health, to recommend one or more of the following treatment strategies:

  • Surgery to remove the primary (main) tumor
  • Chemotherapy to kill or stop the growth or spread of cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to prevent or delay your cancer's return
  • Symptom management for pain or other cancer-related symptoms

At Premier Health, our team has extensive experience treating pancreatic cancer. We perform a high volume of highly complex surgery of the pancreas using advanced techniques. Surgery may remove part or all of the pancreas and nearby tissue, depending on the cancer’s location. Based on the patient’s needs, our surgeons perform:

  • Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) to remove part of the pancreas, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, and the gallbladder and common bile duct
  • Distal pancreatectomy to remove part of the pancreas and the spleen.
  • NanoKnife® ablation, which uses localized electric currents to destroy cancer cells. This technology often is used for pancreatic tumors that cannot be removed or to help ensure the margins of the tumor are clear of cancer cells.

Keeping You Safe During COVID-19

You will find new safety measures in place when you schedule appointments and come to our facilities — all with the goal of keeping you safe as we care for you.

Contact Us

Our cancer team is here for you. Our cancer specialists have access to nationally recognized cancer care protocols and best practices, since Premier Health is a certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our patients benefit from advanced local care backed by the world-renowned expertise of the nation’s leading cancer center. 

Call the Premier Health cancer hotline at (844) 316-HOPE(844) 316-4673 (4673), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with a Premier Health cancer navigator.