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Pancreatic Cancer

World-class services for pancreatic cancer diagnosis & treatment

When it comes to a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, patients, families, and doctors fight the battle together. At Methodist Health System, independently practicing physicians -- including surgeons, oncologists, gastroenterologists and pathologists – work together with patient navigators, patients, and families to provide care for managing and treating pancreatic cancer.

Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis

Unlike heart disease, where doctors can pinpoint a clot or look for high levels of cholesterol, there are no similar types of diagnostic tools for pancreatic cancer detection. This is why it is so important to have an experienced team of medical professionals on your side. Results of diagnostic tests can help guide pancreatic cancer treatment.

  • CT scan (computed tomography) – These x-rays can be useful in finding pancreatic tumors. CT scans can also show the organs near the pancreas and whether cancer has spread. A CT scan may determine if surgery is a good treatment option.
  • ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) – A thin, flexible tube is passed down the throat, into the small intestine, where the doctor can see through the end of the tube. A small amount of contrast dye is then pushed through the tube into the ducts. The dye colors outlines of the ducts on x-rays to reveal blocked ducts that could signal cancer of the pancreas.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – MRI scans use radio waves and strong magnets to image the tumor and may be helpful in looking at the pancreas and surrounding organs.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) – PET scans use a radioactive glucose to image cells. Cancer cells are very active and they take in large amounts of the sugar. This whole body scan is useful to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or to other places.
  • PET/CT scan – This test combines the 2 types of scans to even better pinpoint the tumor spread beyond the pancreas. It may also be useful for staging the cancer and finding it sooner.
  • Somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS) – also known as OctreoScan, SRS can be helpful in diagnosing pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
  • Ultrasound – This test can help tell what kind of tumor is in the pancreas. An endoscopic ultrasound gives a picture, which may be more helpful than a CT scans for spotting small tumors.
  • Blood tests - While there is currently no specific test that finds pancreatic cancer, blood tests can show whether jaundice is due to a blockage in the bile duct or to another cause, such as liver disease. If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your doctor may give you a special blood test, called CA 19-9 to track the activity of pancreatic cancer cells.
  • Biopsy – surgical removal of tissue from the pancreas to determine whether pancreatic cancer is present.

Patients will be given a health history and physical exam to help diagnose pancreatic cancer. The exam will focus mostly on the abdominal area of the liver, which may be enlarged. The skin and the white part of the eyes will be checked for jaundice. Your symptoms, medical history, and family history of cancer may be reviewed.

Surgical treatment options for pancreatic cancer

Surgical pancreatic cancer treatment options offered at Methodist Dallas include:

  • Robotic Whipple surgery (pancreaticoduodenectomy) with the da Vinci® Surgical System
  • Whipple surgery (pancreaticoduodenectomy)
  • Distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy surgery
  • Total pancreatectomy surgery

Nonsurgical treatment options for pancreatic cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, non-surgical pancreatic cancer treatment options can include:

  • Ablative techniques – ways to destroy tumors, other than surgical removal
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy and other drugs

Learn more about pancreatic cancer treatment options from the American Cancer Society.

Benefits of surgery for pancreatic cancer patients

Studies show that pancreatic surgeries have better outcomes and fewer complications if done at a hospital that performs a high volume of these specialized procedures. Methodist Health System is one of the nation’s highest volume, highest quality treatment locations, caring for more than 100 pancreatic cancer patients each year.

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women in the United States. Surgical resection is a potentially lifesaving option for patients whose cancer has not spread beyond the pancreas. However, studies have found only about a third of patients with locoregional pancreatic cancer undergo surgical resection. Many were never given the option. At Methodist Health System, we are committed to bringing this critical choice to more families affected by this disease.

Why Choose Methodist

At Methodist Health System, we take a holistic (whole body) approach to pancreatic cancer care. This means that were are focused on helping patients with their physical, mental, and emotional needs by treating the symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment while working on finishing off the cancer once and for all.

The multidisciplinary approach to care for pancreatic cancer begins with the coordinated efforts of a highly trained, independently practicing medical staff who have years of experience in treating complex pancreatic cancer cases – surgeons, pathologists, gastroenterologists, oncologists – who meet with a palliative care nurse and a clinical coordinator/nurse navigator to discuss your treatment options. Throughout your care, the nurse navigator will meet with you and your family to discuss your case and treatment options and to guide you through the information and decisions that need to be made regarding treatment.

From diagnosis and testing to pancreatic cancer treatment – whether surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination – to post-treatment counseling and support, including diet and lifestyle recommendations, the integrated care team at Methodist works together.