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Finding out you have cancer can be a frightening and overwhelming experience. That’s why Mercy’s cancer team offers more than just medical treatments for its patients. We’ll help you fully understand your condition and your options for treatment and therapy. That way, you can make thoughtful, well-informed decisions about your cancer care. The sooner you begin treatment for pancreatic cancer, the greater your chances of survival.
Tumors in the pancreas are usually too small for doctors to feel during a physical exam, which means they might not be found until they’ve spread beyond the pancreas. Mercy gastroenterologists, pathologists and radiologists use advanced diagnostic testing methods to help detect pancreatic cancer, evaluate the extent of the disease and develop a treatment plan.
Imaging tests may be done both before and after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis for a number of reasons such as looking for suspicious areas that might be cancer, determining how far cancer might have spread, and looking for signs of cancer returning after treatment. Common imaging procedures include:
At Mercy, we don’t just care for you, we care about you. We’ll do everything we can to help you battle your pancreatic cancer, relieve your symptoms and ease your mind. Your treatment plan will depend on several factors: what stage your cancer is in and whether it’s already spread to other areas of your body. You may need one or more types of treatment, which can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy & immunotherapy.
Pancreatic Cancer Surgery
In most cases, surgery is the best treatment for pancreatic cancer that hasn’t spread beyond the pancreas. Mercy gastrointestinal surgeons are skilled in using the latest surgical procedures and techniques, such as minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery and endoscopic surgery. There are many different kinds of pancreatic cancer surgeries, but which kind you need depends on many factors. The types of pancreatic surgery include the following.
Also known as a Whipple procedure, this is the most common type of surgery for pancreatic cancer and is used to remove cancer in the head of the pancreas. Most often this surgery is done with an incision down the belly, but it’s sometimes performed laparoscopically.
Distal & Total Pancreatectomy
In a distal pancreatectomy, your Mercy surgeon removes just the tail of your pancreas, and may even remove your spleen as well. If your cancer has spread throughout the pancreas, but can still be removed, your Mercy surgeon may recommend a total pancreatectomy. In this procedure, your entire pancreas is removed, as well as your gallbladder, part of your stomach, intestines and spleen.
A stent is a small tube made of metal, which is sometimes placed inside a blocked bile duct to keep it open. This is the most common approach to relieving a blocked bile duct and is usually performed during an endoscopy.
Another option for relieving a blocked bile duct is bypass surgery, which reroutes the flow of bile from the common bile duct into the small intestine. This procedure can be performed laparoscopically or by making a large cut in the abdomen.
Palliative surgery for pancreatic cancer is usually performed if the cancer is too widespread to be removed completely. It can be performed using an operation known as bypass surgery to relieve symptoms or prevent complications.
Your surgeon will help you understand what to expect from your operation or treatment plan, and help you outline a unique care plan for your recovery.
If surgery isn’t an option for you, our radiation oncologists offer advanced radiation therapy treatments to precisely target cancerous tumors. Radiation therapy can be used in all stages of pancreatic cancer, including:
External Beam Radiation
External beam radiation is the most common type of radiation therapy used to treat pancreatic cancer. It focuses radiation from a source outside of the body onto the area of the tumor. In addition to standard external beam radiation, two forms of planning and delivering external beam radiation therapy may be used to treat pancreatic cancer:
Chemotherapy (also referred to as “chemo”) uses drugs delivered directly into your veins or given by mouth to reach pancreatic cancer cells throughout the body. Chemo may be an option for some patients before, after or in lieu of surgery. It’s usually given in cycles, with periods of time built into treatment plans that allow for patients to recover fully.
Mercy offers advanced cancer care and leading-edge treatment technologies.