Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer care that helps you receive the compassionate support and innovative treatments you need.

Pancreatic cancer is often detected in later stages when it’s challenging to treat. But when you come to Nuvance Health™ Cancer Institute, you receive care from an experienced team.

Specialists deliver the latest therapies, some of which are only available in select programs nationwide. Eligible patients have access to advanced testing, clinical trials and support, so you receive personalized care without traveling far from home.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Your pancreas is a gland deep within your digestive organs that produces chemical messengers, such as enzymes and hormones. These substances help your digestive system break down food so you can absorb the nutrients. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the pancreas and start growing out of control.

Some people experience pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. These rare abnormal growths occur in hormone-making cells and may or may not be cancerous. The pancreas is one of the more common sites for neuroendocrine tumors, but they can occur anywhere in the body.

Pancreatic Cancer Care at Nuvance Health: Why Choose Us?

Experienced cancer specialists, including doctors, nutritionists, specially trained nurses and social workers, guide your treatment. Many doctors have completed advanced training through fellowships. The specialists work as team to tailor services to your needs. Highlights of our program include:

  • Advanced surgical options:
    Eligible patients have access to sophisticated techniques, such as the Whipple procedure. This surgery disconnects the head of the pancreas from nearby organs to remove the cancer. Many patients have surgery using minimally invasive techniques that require smaller incisions. Explore cancer surgery.
  • Careful diagnosis:
    You benefit from research-based methods and advanced technology for detailed pancreas imaging. These efforts help us pinpoint the location of the cancer and its severity based on the size and whether it’s spread. We’re also able to evaluate pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors with a high degree of accuracy. Read more about cancer diagnosis.
  • Clinical trials:
    Research at Nuvance Health furthers our understanding of pancreatic cancer and paves the way for new treatments. Eligible patients may have the opportunity to be a part of these efforts through clinical trials. We lead trials offering access to new therapies, sometimes years before they’re widely available. Learn more about cancer clinical trials and pancreatic cancer research.

Care Coordination and Support Services

Pancreatic cancer typically requires many tests and a care plan with complex treatments. The nurse navigator helps coordinate appointments and lets you know what to expect, so you can focus on feeling better.

Cancer and treatment side effects can affect the way you feel as well as your peace of mind. Assistance from cancer dietitians, financial navigators and social workers may relieve some of these worries. Find out more about cancer supportive care.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

In the early stages, many people do not know they have pancreatic cancer. Symptoms such as tiredness or mild digestive issues can be easy to ignore.

As the cancer grows, you may experience:

  • A new and unexpected diabetes diagnosis
  • Abnormal stools that are gray, oily or watery
  • Jaundice, which causes yellowing of the skin or eyes and is a sign of liver problems
  • Pain, especially in your stomach or upper back
  • Unexpected weight loss

Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer

Tests to assess symptoms and diagnose pancreatic cancer may include:

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): To access the pancreas, we slide a long tube, an endoscope, down your throat past the upper digestive system. A camera and instruments at the tip of the endoscope help us evaluate suspicious growths. The procedure may include taking a tissue sample if necessary.
  • Imaging studies: Tests including computed tomography (CT) scans and endoscopic ultrasound help us determine the size, shape and location of the cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Your care may start with genomic testing to check for specific changes in cancer cell genes. This information helps us determine the right treatments for your diagnosis.

Treatments include:

  • Surgery: The Whipple procedure is for cancer in the front wide part (the head) of the pancreas. Distal pancreatectomy is for cancers at the body or tail of the pancreas.
  • Non-surgical procedures: If the cancer is too advanced for surgery, you may still have options. Interventional radiologists use real-time imaging and narrow tubes with instruments at the tip to help treat certain symptoms. These procedures open up blockages or use focused heat (ablation) to prevent cancer from growing.
  • Medical oncology: You may receive chemotherapy (drugs that attack cancer cells) or other medical treatments such as targeted therapy to shrink the tumor. Read more about chemotherapy and other medical oncology.
  • Radiation therapy: This option uses high-energy waves to break up cancer cells while protecting nearby healthy tissue. Get more information about radiation therapy.