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SOUTH DENVER GASTROENTEROLOGY, P.C.

Pancreatic Cancer

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

The pancreas is a long gland that is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen and gallbladder. It has the important job of secreting enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. When the cells in the pancreas develop mutations in their DNA, they can grow uncontrollably, resulting in pancreatic cancer.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer often do not begin right away. However, when they are noticed, they may include:

  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
  • Pain in the abdomen and back.
  • Dark urine.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Weight loss.
  • Nausea.
  • Fatigue.

There are certain factors that may increase your risk for developing pancreatic cancer, including diabetes, smoking, pancreatitis, a family history of pancreatic cancer, obesity or being over the age of 65.

The front staff was immediately attentive as soon as I walked in. The nurses and PAs were professional and very nice, and the doctors were even better. The procedure went smoothly and could not have gone better. Of course, having positive lab results makes it easier to post a glowing report but I got the impression that if I had been diagnosed differently, they would have taken care of me with the same kindness and dedication.

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These people were all extremely professional and kind. The bedside manner from all staff was great and they were thorough with all information. Medical stuff is hard to deal with, but with people like this, the discomfort was eased. I highly recommend this office to anyone needing this type of help.

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I was very nervous about my first colonoscopy. Dr. Fairbanks put me at ease immediately and did an excellent job. I was able to watch the last few minutes of the procedure and it was awesome! She explained everything clearly. I had my procedure done at Parker Adventist and they were wonderful as well! Job well done, Dr. Fairbanks! Thanks, Robin

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How is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed

To diagnose pancreatic cancer, your doctor will have you undergo some testing. These tests may include imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI, an endoscopic ultrasound, a biopsy procedure or blood tests.

Once pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will work to figure out if the cancer has spread through a process known as staging. The stage of cancer defines how much cancer is in the body, how serious the cancer is, and therefore, how best to treat it.

Pancreas cancer stages include:

Stage 0:

This is the earliest stage of pancreatic cancer. It is confined to the top layers of the pancreatic duct cells and has not yet reached the deeper layers of tissue. Cancer has also not spread outside of the pancreas or to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage I:

Stage 1 is split into two separate stages known as IA and IB. During stage IA, the cancer is confined to the pancreas and is not larger than 2 cm across. In stage IB, the cancer is still confined to the pancreas. It is larger than 2 cm but not more than 4 cm across. The cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes in both stages IA and IB.

Stage II:

Stage 2 is divided into two stages known as IIA and IIB. During stage IIA, cancer is confined to the pancreas but is larger than 4 cm across, and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes. During stage IIB, the cancer is confined to the pancreas and is no larger than 2 cm across, and has spread to no more than 3 lymph nodes.

Stage III:

During stage 3, the cancer is confined to the pancreas and is no larger than 2 cm across. It has spread to 4 or more nearby lymph nodes, but not to distant areas of the body.

Stage IV:

Stage 4 cancer has spread to other areas of the body such as the lungs, bones or liver. It may be any size and may or may not have spread to lymph nodes.

Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer

The treatment that is right for you will depend on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as your health and preferences. The main goal of treatment is to eradicate the cancer if possible. If this is not possible, the goal will be to limit the cancer from growing further or causing complications. Pancreatic cancer treatment options may include:

Surgery

There are several surgical procedures that may be performed to remove tumors in the pancreas or the entire pancreas itself. Your doctor will advise you on which procedure is right for you and your individual case.

Radiation

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. Patients may undergo radiation before or after surgery, or in combination with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and is usually used to treat cancer that has not yet spread beyond the pancreas to other areas of the body. It may be used alone or along with radiation therapy.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to precisely identify and attack certain types of cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Pancreatic Cancer or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!


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