Pancreatic cancer

What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is cancer that starts in the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ in the body that makes enzymes which break down food as well as hormones, such as insulin, that help the body use or store the energy that comes from food. Pancreatic cancer can spread very rapidly.

What causes pancreatic cancer?
No exact cause of pancreatic cancer is known, but there are some factors that may increase the risk of developing it:
• Being overweight or obese
• Being a smoker, especially a heavy smoker
• Having diabetes
• Having a close relative or immediate family member (parent or sibling) with pancreatic cancer
• Having pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas, for a long time

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will definitely get pancreatic cancer. Alternatively, a person who does not have any of these risk factors may still develop pancreatic cancer.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
• Yellowing of the skin or eyes
• Pain in the upper belly or middle part of the back
• Dark urine
• Stools that are pale or float in the toilet
• Nausea
• Fatigue
• Weight loss for an unknown reason
• Poor appetite

Signs and symptoms do not usually appear in the early stages of the cancer, which is why we strongly recommend that people take regular early detection tests that can diagnose cancer in its early, most curable stages.

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
Physicians at KHCC use a variety of techniques to accurately diagnose and stage pancreatic cancer:
• Ultrasound Imaging
• CT scan
• MRI scan
• ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography), which is a procedure used to examine and diagnose diseases of the liver, bile ducts, and pancreas.
• Endoscopic ultrasound and endoscopic ultrasound-guided biopsy
• Laparoscopic biopsy to obtain tissue samples in and around the pancreas for further study

How is pancreatic cancer treated at KHCC?
The treating physician will present the case to the MDC panel who will determine the right treatment for the patient depending on how much the cancer has spread throughout the body.
Depending on the stage of the cancer (how far advanced it is), chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients. The first form of treatment is usually surgery to completely remove the tumor. So far, cancer of the pancreas can be cured only when it is found at an early stage, before it has spread to other organs. For patients who can’t have surgery, other treatments may be able to help them live longer and feel better.

At KHCC, pancreatic cancer patients receive top quality care through a multidisciplinary team of specialists highly experienced in treating pancreatic cancer and other gastrointestinal tumors

Supportive Care
The gastrointestinal multidisciplinary clinic works in close cooperation with other departments at KHCC so that pancreatic cancer patients receive the most comprehensive care possible. Supportive care services at KHCC include:
• For patients who have to have temporary or permanent colostomies, a stoma team is on hand to counsel them and show them how to use colostomy pouches.