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Pancreatic Cancer

Quick Facts

Each year in the United States, more than 43,000 people are diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. Most are over 65 years old. Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, a family history of pancreatic cancer, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), and/or obesity. Researchers are studying whether a diet high in fat (especially animal fat) or heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages may also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Definition

A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the tissues of the pancreas. There are two main types of pancreatic cancer. Most often, pancreatic cancer starts in the ducts that carry pancreatic juices. This type is called exocrine pancreatic cancer. Much less often, pancreatic cancer begins in the cells that make hormones. This type may be called endocrine pancreatic cancer or islet cell cancer.

Specialized Physicians:
Atrayee Basu Mallick, MD
Avnish Bhatia, MD
Christina Brus, MD
Andrew E. Chapman, DO
Nancy L. Lewis, MD *
Susan J. Littman, MD *
Edith P. Mitchell, MD, FACP *
Michael J. Ramirez, MD
Lewis J. Rose, MD, FACP
Allison Zibelli, MD, FACP

*Practice Focus: Gastrointestinal Oncology

For further information contact:
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
www.jeffersonhospital.org/cancer

Stage I: The tumor is found only in the pancreas.

Stage II: The tumor has invaded nearby tissue but not nearby blood vessels. The cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage III: The tumor has invaded nearby blood vessels.

Stage IV: The cancer has spread to a distant organ, such as the liver or lungs.

Treatment

Treatment options for people with cancer of the pancreas are surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy. Patients will likely receive more than one type of treatment depending mainly on the location of the tumor in the pancreas, whether the disease has spread, and the patient’s age and general health. At this time, cancer of the pancreas can be cured only when it’s found at an early stage (before it has spread) and only if surgery can completely remove the tumor. For people who can’t have surgery, other treatments may be able to help them live longer and feel better.

Reference: National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/pancreatic