Pancreatic Cancer

Even though pancreatic cancer affects far fewer people than other types of cancer, it is still a leading cause of cancer death. Many people do not have symptoms until their cancer has spread beyond the pancreas.

But you can take steps to reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer. And you can increase your chances of finding it early by talking to your doctor as soon as you have unusual pain or other problems. The sooner you begin treatment for pancreatic cancer, the greater your chances of survival.

Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Your pancreas is a gland that’s about six inches long. It’s tucked inside your abdomen, behind the lower part of your stomach. It helps your body digest food and regulate blood sugar.

If cells within your pancreas begin to grow abnormally, they can form a cancerous tumor. Most pancreatic cancer starts in cells called exocrine cells. Symptoms include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • An enlarged gallbladder (which may feel like a large lump on the right side of your abdomen, under your rib cage)

Anyone can get pancreatic cancer. But if you smoke, your risk is about twice as high as a non-smoker. You’re also more likely to get pancreatic cancer if you’re significantly overweight.

On rare occasions pancreatic cancer begins in a type of cell called endocrine cells. This type of cancer is known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, or “pancreatic NETs.” Pancreatic NETs are managed differently than typical (exocrine) pancreatic cancer. If you have one of these tumors, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment at Mercy

Finding out you have cancer is frightening. And learning you have an aggressive cancer can be especially alarming. That’s why Mercy’s cancer team offers more than medical treatments. We’ll help you understand your condition and your options. That way, you can make thoughtful, well-informed decisions about your care.

Your treatment plan will depend on several factors. These include what stage your cancer is in and whether it has spread. You may need one or more types of treatment, including:

  • Surgery to remove part or all of your pancreas. Your surgeon may also need to remove nearby structures such as lymph nodes, the gallbladder, or part of the small intestine.
  • Ablation therapies to destroy a tumor using heat, cold or microwave energy.
  • Embolization therapies to kill a tumor by cutting off its blood supply.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Medication, including chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

You may also benefit from pain management and other treatments to manage your symptoms.

At Mercy, we don’t just care for you, we care about you. We’ll do everything we can to fight your pancreatic cancer, relieve your symptoms and ease your mind.

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