Cancer of the pancreas is one of the most aggressive forms of the disease. Because the pancreas is in close proximity to other organs, cancer can spread quickly throughout the body. Preventive screenings, early detection, and treatment of the disease remain the best ways to improve the outcomes.
Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to identify in its earlier stages, making it harder to diagnose. Often, symptoms go unnoticed until the disease progresses. By the time symptoms do appear, they often present as fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), abdominal pain or stomach pain that spreads to the back, loss of appetite, and unexplained weight loss. Those experiencing any combination of these symptoms should contact their health care provider as soon as possible.
The pancreas is responsible for releasing the hormones in the body that regulate blood sugar. People with diabetes and those with a family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis may be at an increased risk. Smoking or vaping, excessive alcohol use and conditions like heart disease and obesity may also increase your risk of developing the disease.
There is no single screening test for pancreatic cancer, but it can be detected using CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds or biopsy. These tests are the most effective way to detect pancreatic cancer and treat it in its earliest stages. If you are at an increased risk for pancreatic cancer due to lifestyle or family history, your health care provider may recommend conducting these tests at a specific age. Although a cancer diagnosis often comes with a great deal of uncertainty, regular screenings empower patients to be proactive about their care options and can dramatically improve their recovery outcomes.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer varies greatly, as no two cancer patients have the same health history. When a patient receives a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, their primary care provider and oncology care team will work with them to review their treatment options. These treatment options account for a patient’s age, weight, and overall health. Many treatment plans include a combination of medication and radiation therapy, and may also involve surgery to remove cancerous tumors or to relieve symptoms. There are also a number of lifestyle and dietary adjustments that can help aid in a patient’s recovery.
Our dedicated team of oncology specialists and multidisciplinary cancer care physicians is here to support patients during each step of their recovery process, from screening to survivorship. Main Line Health’s Cancer Survivorship Program helps cancer patients optimize their quality of life with community support and additional resources for their physical, social, and emotional recovery.