What You Need to Know About Pancreatic Cancer

A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be devastating for both the patient and his or her loved ones. This relatively rare cancer is notorious for being difficult to treat, because it is often diagnosed in later stages. Fortunately, oncology specialists are more equipped than ever to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer, and at MountainView Hospital , our multidisciplinary cancer team is prepared to offer advanced treatments combined with compassionate care. Here are the facts you need to know about pancreatic cancer.

What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the pancreas. In most cases, the cancer forms in exocrine pancreas cells, which are responsible for releasing enzymes that assist in digestion. Less frequently, cancer develops in neuroendocrine cells, which submit hormones including insulin and glucagon. Cancer in the exocrine cells is difficult to diagnose in many cases, since it doesn’t cause symptoms until the disease is advanced. Because cancer in neuroendocrine cells disrupts hormone levels, which causes symptoms, it is more likely to be diagnosed in early stages.

What are the symptoms?
In many cases, pancreatic cancer doesn’t cause symptoms until it has spread outside of the pancreas. When symptoms do occur, they including jaundice, itchy skin, back or belly pain, loss of appetite, and nausea. In some cases, it can cause diabetes, periods of hypoglycemia, stomach ulcers, and uneven texture of fatty skin tissue. Often, the symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer are symptoms caused when the cancer spreads to another organ.

What treatments are available?
As with all types of cancer, early diagnosis can make a dramatic difference in treatment outcomes for pancreatic cancer. Treatment options for pancreatic cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy. Typically, patients with pancreatic cancer receive more than one type of treatment as part of their care plans.

The cancer team at MountainView Hospital offers comprehensive cancer care in a dedicated unit staffed with a knowledgeable team—many of whom have survived cancer. You can get more information about cancer care as well as all of our other hospital services, including stroke care and robotic surgery, by calling (702) 233-5300.