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Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to diagnose and treat, and has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. About 43,000 cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed this year, mostly in people over the age of 65. *Source: American Cancer Society

Pancreatic Cancer Overview

WellStar Health System provides superior care for pancreatic cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition WellStar offers innovative advances in the fight against pancreatic cancer, including:

  • Pancreatic surgeons who have performed hundreds of these operations over the years - a critical factor when considering a surgical solution to pancreatic cancer. In 2010, 32 patients with pancreatic cancer were treated in our health care system.
  • Advanced oncologists with special interest in pancreatic cancer and who practice state-of-the-art care in a collegial atmosphere.
  • The entire spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments – including ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a treatment that tailors the radiation to the size and location of the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue.
  • A GI Tumor Board, which meets weekly to present patient cases and craft a personalized treatment plan. The conference is attended by medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology, and a team of surgeons including specially trained liver and pancreas surgeons, colorectal surgeons and general surgeons specializing in minimally invasive surgery.
  • Clinical trials - making novel therapies available to patients.

The pancreas is a sponge-like organ about six inches long located deep inside the abdomen, between the stomach and the back. One end, the head, is larger than the other, the tail. The pancreas makes juices that aid in digestion of food. The pancreas also is a gland that produces insulin, which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood.

While there are two types of pancreatic cancer, about 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. These are sometimes referred to as exocrine tumors. Far less common are endocrine tumors, pancreatic cancers that originate in the cells that produce hormones.

Because the pancreas lies deep within the abdomen and because the disease produces few symptoms, pancreatic cancer can easily invade nearby abdominal organs. It can also shed cancerous cells that are then received by other organs. The ease with which the disease can spread is one reason that pancreatic cancer has such a poor prognosis.


  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Yellow-looking skin or the whites of eyes
  • Blood clots
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Being of African-American descent
  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas
  • Old age
  • Diabetes
  • Personal or family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Family history of certain genes linked to cancer risk