Primary care for you and your family, close to home.
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:
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.
Wellstar supports scientific research that shows certain lifestyle choices can lower a person’s risk of some cancers. Most patients with pancreatic cancer had no risk factors for developing the illness, but it is still important to do all that you can to keep your risk factors low for this disease. Our research indicates that maintaining a healthy body weight through healthy eating and regular exercise is an important way to lower your risk for many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. We have also linked cigarette smoking to numerous cancers, including cancer of the pancreas. Wellstar endeavors to help patients who want to stop smoking through a variety of smoking cessation efforts.
If you smoke, please consider getting help to quit through one of Wellstar’s tobacco cessation programs. Wellstar physicians know that not smoking is one of the most important things a person can do to avoid cancer.
Avoid excess body fat by limiting caloric intake and/or balance caloric intake with ample moderate-to-vigorous exercise.
Limit alcoholic beverages to no more than one a day.
For the general population, there is no screening test for the disease. In most cases, it is diagnosed in an advanced stage. However, MRI or CT scans at regular intervals are recommended for patients who have a family history of pancreatic cancer.
If you have symptoms of pancreatic cancer, including abdominal pain and bloating that persists for more than two weeks, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, your Wellstar physician will recommend various imaging tests to determine whether you have pancreatic cancer.
When pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, your Wellstar physician will categorize it by its current stage. Stage describes how large the tumor is and whether the cancer has spread to other groups of lymph nodes and to distant sites in the body.
Once cancer has been detected, biopsied and classified by stage your team of specialists in oncology, radiation oncology, surgery and pathology will work together to plan the best course of treatment. This includes formulating a coordinated plan of personalized treatment consistent with the highest standards of care. Your treatment will be tailored to the stage of pancreatic cancer you have, and may include a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and the use of drugs known as biological agents. Also, you may want to explore clinical trials, which are studies that are testing the efficacy of experimental treatments not yet approved by the FDA. Because these are experimental, there is no guarantee that the treatments work. Talk to your Wellstar physician to determine whether a clinical trial may be important for you.
Surgery is the most effective way to treat pancreatic cancer, when the cancer is still localized in the pancreas. When the cancer has spread to other organs other modalities of treatment need to be considered.
Depending on location of the cancer in the pancreas, the two main operations on the pancreas are:
An important factor to be considered before an operation on the pancreas is the relationship of the tumor to some critical blood vessels. Depending on this relationship, pancreatic cancer localized to the pancreas are broadly classified into 3 categories:
At Wellstar, a multidisciplinary team of dedicated pancreatic surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists evaluate all patients with pancreatic cancer. This team strives to convert every borderline resectable cancer to a resectable one using preoperative chemotherapy and radiation (IMRT).
Surgical teams of pancreatic surgeons and vascular surgeons often work together to then resect these borderline cancers.
Dedicated OR teams who specialize in the performance of these procedures to dedicated surgical nurses in the ICU and surgical floors and other support staff such as nutritionist and physical therapist make recovery from these operation safe.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs given by mouth or injection to destroy cancer cells. It can be used to assist in the cure of cancer patients or to prolong life or the quality of life. Chemotherapy is typically used for pancreatic cancer patients even if the cancer has not spread to other organs.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. This kind of therapy is often used to treat symptoms of other organs affected by pancreatic cancer. Specifically, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a treatment that tailors the radiation to the size and location of the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue.
You’ll be referred after your recovery from pancreatic cancer to Wellstar’s medical oncology team for treatment, surveillance and survivorship programs. These comprehensive programs focus on diet, exercise and nutrition to help you reduce the risk of recurrence.
Cancer care at Wellstar is more than advanced technology, clinical research, and highly specialized physicians and nurses. It includes an array of supportive care services to improve the patient experience before, during and after treatment. All of these services are available within the Wellstar system, including:
Wellstar's certified palliative care physicians and certified registered nurses are dedicated to providing compassionate, quality care in various settings, including home hospice, inpatient hospice nursing homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Wellstar offers caring and compassionate hospice care for patients and their families in one of Georgia's oldest hospice programs serving Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties.