Guide Pancreatic Cancer: Methods and Protocols

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Imaging tests

There are two techniques used to relieve this symptom:. Chemotherapy uses cancer drugs to slow or shrink pancreatic tumors. These drugs are either given intravenously IV or taken by mouth, and spread throughout the body through the bloodstream. Depending on the resectability likelihood that the tumor can be completely removed by surgery of the pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy can be given:.

Two chemotherapy combinations have been approved for the initial treatment of pancreatic cancer, including:. Radiation therapy uses high-energy photon beams x-rays to slow or shrink pancreatic tumors. Due to the level of precision of some types of radiation therapy, higher than normal doses of radiation dose-escalation can be considered and used without damaging normal tissues. MD Anderson uses several different types of radiation therapy to treat pancreatic cancers.

At MD Anderson , our radiation oncologists use a special machine called a CT on rails to deliver higher than normal doses of radiation dose-escalation with extreme precision. This type of staging classifies pancreatic cancers into three groups, based on whether or not they can be removed with surgery.

The cancer is confined to the pancreas, or has only spread to immediately nearby tissue, and the tumor can be removed entirely with surgery. This typically includes pancreatic cancers that are stage I and II. Patients with resectable pancreatic cancer may:. The cancer has reached nearby blood vessels, but it has the potential to be removed with surgery. Patients with borderline resectable pancreatic cancer often receive chemotherapy and may subsequently receive radiation.


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After these initial therapies, patients are then evaluated to determine whether their tumor can be completely removed with surgery. The cancer cannot be removed by surgery. This stage is divided into locally advanced and metastatic. Though the disease has not spread, these cases are treated with complicated surgical operations that require a high level of experience to perform safely and effectively. When pancreatic cancer is confined to the pancreas, and sometimes when it has spread only to the nearby areas, it can be removed with surgery. The highest chances for successful treatment occur when the tumor is completely removed, and the surgical techniques required are extremely complex.

Because our surgeons are among the most experienced and skilled in the nation, MD Anderson has:. Our experts provide comprehensive pancreatic cancer care, and they have pioneered several advances in the field, including:. MD Anderson conducts a wide range of clinical trials to test new and innovative treatment options for both localized and metastatic pancreatic cancer.

The treatment options used in these trials often cannot be found anywhere else and are critical for advancing pancreatic cancer treatment. Learn more about our pancreatic cancer clinical trials and research. Radiation therapy can be a powerful tool in pancreatic cancer treatment. Our radiation oncologists are experts at stereotactic body radiation therapy SBRT and dose-escalation, which allow high doses of radiation to be delivered to the tumor without damaging healthy tissue.

Many MD Anderson faculty have led or are leading national clinical trials to improve radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer. MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else. My Chart.


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Let's get started. Request an appointment online. Jump To:. Get details about our clinical trials that are currently enrolling patients.

View Clinical Trials. About the pancreas The pancreas is an oblong organ located behind the lower part of the stomach, between the stomach and the spine. The pancreas mainly contains two kinds of cells: Exocrine cells, which make and release enzymes that aid in food digestion. Endocrine cells, which produce and release important hormones directly into the bloodstream.

Pancreatic cancer risk factors Anything that increases your chance of developing pancreatic cancer is a risk factor. Risk factors that can be changed include: Smoking and tobacco use: People who smoke are about twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer.


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Race: African-Americans are more likely to have pancreatic cancer than other ethnic groups. Diabetes: People with long-standing history of type 2 diabetes have an increased likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer. Chronic pancreatitis: Long-term inflammation of the pancreas is linked with increased pancreatic cancer risk, especially in smokers.

What are pancreatic cancer symptoms?

Improving the outcome of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer symptoms can include: Jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes Dark urine or light-colored stools Pain in the abdomen or middle of the back Bloating or the feeling of fullness Nausea, vomiting or indigestion Fatigue Lack of appetite Unexplained weight loss Sudden-onset diabetes These symptoms do not always mean you have pancreatic cancer. Diagnostic tests for pancreatic cancer One or more of the following tests may be used to test for pancreatic cancer.

Imaging tests One way to diagnose pancreatic cancer is by imaging the pancreas and surrounding areas. Common imaging tests for pancreatic cancer include: CT scan: A painless, outpatient procedure that uses a series of X-rays taken from different angles to provide an image of the pancreas. Unless other factors make its use unsuitable, a CT scan optimized for imaging the pancreas is the primary option for diagnosis and staging of pancreatic cancer.

The Key Questions

MRI scan: A painless, outpatient procedure that uses magnets, rather than x-rays, to provide an image of the pancreas. While CT scans are more commonly used, an MRI can sometimes help visualize tumors that are hard to see. Endoscopic ultrasound: A special endoscope with an ultrasound probe is inserted into the mouth and directed to the first part of the small intestine to show the pancreas on a video screen. If cancer is suspected, a small piece of tissue can be taken for biopsy. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography ERCP : A special endoscope is inserted through the mouth and directed to the first part of the small intestine.

A smaller tube is then inserted through the endoscope into the bile ducts. A dye is injected through the tube, and an X-ray is taken. If the ducts are blocked by a tumor, a stent may be inserted to relieve blockage. This may help alleviate stomach pain and digestive problems. Blood tests Blood samples can be taken and examined for levels of substances that indicate the function of the liver, such as bilirubin, or other organs that may be affected by a pancreatic tumor.

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Pancreatic cancer - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic

Pancreatic cancer staging If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your doctor will determine the stage of the disease. Stage 1A: The tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller Stage 1B: The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters Stage 2: Cancer is large or has spread to lymph nodes. Surgery Chemotherapy Radiation Pancreatic cancer surgery The main surgical approaches used to treat pancreatic cancer are: Potentially curative: Attempt to treat pancreatic cancer by removing it. Palliative: Attempt to relieve symptoms, like a blocked bile duct or bowel.

Potentially curative surgical techniques When pancreatic cancer is confined to the pancreas, and sometimes when it has spread only to nearby areas, the tumor can be removed with surgery.

Pancreatic cancer: treatment approaches and trends

Palliative surgical operations In many cases, cancer cannot be completely removed because it has spread too far beyond the pancreas or into major blood vessels. There are two techniques used to relieve this symptom: Stent placement: An endoscope is used to insert metal tubes called stents that help keep the bile duct open. This is often done during endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography ECRP.