If you — or a loved one — have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you likely have a lot of questions about how the disease will affect your life. A diagnosis of cancer can feel overwhelming, but education is key. The more you know about this type of cancer, the better informed you’ll be to make smart decisions about your care. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the disease.
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What Is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer symptoms
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
Who Is at Risk for Pancreatic Cancer?
How Is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed?
- A physical exam
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Needle biopsy
How Is Pancreatic Cancer Treated?
Pancreatic cancer surgery
Depending on your eligibility, your doctor may recommend Whipple surgery, which involves removing the head, or right-hand portion, of the pancreas, as well as parts of the small intestine, gallbladder, bile duct, and sometimes a portion of the stomach. Other types of surgery for pancreatic cancer include distal pancreatectomy (removal of the “tail” of the pancreas, as well as the spleen) and total pancreatectomy (removal of the entire pancreas and spleen). If the cancer has spread too far to be removed, your doctor may suggest palliative interventions, which cannot cure the disease but instead helps relieve symptoms.
Chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer can also be treated with chemotherapy, drugs that kill cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be given before and after surgery, or when surgery isn’t possible. It is sometimes used in conjunction with radiation, high-energy x-rays that kill cancer cells. Likewise, you may receive radiation before and after surgery, with or without chemotherapy, or to ease symptoms in advanced stages of the disease. Your health care team can recommend the treatment that’s right for you.
To learn more about the latest developments in the field of treatment for cancer, including pancreatic cancer, visit the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center online or make an appointment to speak with an expert.
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About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.