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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment in NJ, CT, and MD

Pancreatic cancer is challenging to detect, as people often do not experience symptoms until the disease has metastasized. However, proper diagnosis and treatment may help a patient manage the damaging effects of this disease. The expert oncologists and hematologists of Regional Cancer Care Associates treat many cancer types and blood disorders, including pancreatic cancer. Patients throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area rely on these doctors to provide compassionate care and cutting-edge treatment.

Who Is at Risk for Pancreatic Cancer?

Several risk factors increase the likelihood that a person may develop pancreatic cancer, although the presence of one or more does not mean that a person will develop the disease. And, fortunately, some of the most significant risk factors for this cancer are behaviors that people can change. Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Tobacco use
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Having certain other medical conditions, including diabetes and chronic pancreatitis
  • Exposure to some chemicals, such as those used by metal workers and dry cleaners
  • Lack of a nutritious diet

While a patient may change his or her diet or stop smoking to reduce risk, other factors are outside of people’s control. These include:

  • Age: Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are older than 45 years, suggesting that risk increases with age.
  • Ethnicity/race: The disease affects Black people and those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent slightly more than other groups.
  • Genetics: While most individuals with pancreatic cancer do not have a family history of the disease, some genetic factors, such as having the BRCA2 gene mutation, may increase risk.
  • Sex: More men develop pancreatic cancer than women.
Purple ribbon denoting pancreatic cancer

Testing for Pancreatic Cancer

If a physician determines that a patient has symptoms of pancreatic cancer, the doctor may conduct tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the disease. Initial steps taken to identify pancreatic cancer include a physical examination, medical history evaluation, and imaging.

Several blood tests also help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer, including measurement of tumor markers. These markers are proteins that may be elevated in people with pancreatic cancer. Other blood screenings include liver function tests and complete blood count (CBC). A physician may also order a biopsy of the pancreas.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

In most cases, people with pancreatic cancer do not notice signs or symptoms right away. Symptoms usually do not appear until the disease has progressed. Once pancreatic cancer reaches an advanced stage, the patient may experience:
  • Stomach or back pain
  • Upper abdominal pain that moves to the back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood clots
  • Loss of appetite and involuntary weight loss
  • Dark-colored urine and light-colored stools
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Itchiness
  • Fatigue
  • Development or worsening of diabetes
  • Enlarged gallbladder or liver

Stages of Pancreatic Cancer

The staging process assesses whether cancer has spread throughout the body, and – if so — how far it has spread. The process helps doctors formulate the best treatment plan for a specific patient. Researchers have established five main stages of pancreatic cancer:

Stage 0: Cancer exists only on the top layers of the pancreas.
Stage 1: Cancer is growing but is still contained within the pancreas.
Stage 2: Cancer has progressed outside the pancreas but has not infiltrated major blood vessels or nerves.

Stage 3: Cancer has affected major vessels and nerves, as well as lymph nodes.

Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

Sometimes doctors use a separate, simpler system for staging pancreatic cancer to determine whether it can be surgically removed. This approach divides pancreatic cancer into removable, borderline removable, and not removable cases.

Doctor explaining scan to patient

Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer

Because pancreatic cancer often is not detected until it has advanced significantly, the 5-year survival rate for this cancer is lower than that for other malignancies, but it has increased in recent years. The American Cancer society reports that the 5-year survival rate for localized pancreatic cancer is 42% while the 5-year survival rate for cancer that has spread to distant areas of the body is 3%. However, pancreatic cancer is the focus of an intense research effort, with many new drugs and treatment approaches in late stages of clinical investigation. The following are some cancer treatment options for this disease:
  • Surgery: A surgeon may attempt to remove all cancer to cure the patient, or may perform a procedure to alleviate symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment involves administering drugs to weaken or kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: Like chemotherapy, this treatment uses drugs, but these medications target the malignant cells more specifically while leaving healthy cells unaffected.
  • Radiation therapy: This treatment employs high-energy rays to attack and impede the growth of cancer cells.
  • Ablation or embolization: These procedures may relieve symptoms or destroy tumors, but typically do not cure pancreatic cancer.
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be difficult to handle, and patients may benefit from participating in local support groups or obtaining services from organizations such as the American Cancer Society.

Seek Treatment From Regional Cancer Care Associates

Patients needing compassionate pancreatic cancer care from experienced providers should turn to Regional Cancer Care Associates. With oncologists and hematologists at 25 community-based care centers across New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area, RCCA is dedicated to providing comprehensive care to patients with cancers and blood disorders. Contact one of these locations today for more on pancreatic cancer treatment.

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Offering advanced cancer care

Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) oncologists have been trained at the world’s most distinguished medical institutions. Our experts have proven their leadership as professors, clinicians and researchers. At RCCA, we focus on you, individually. We offer high-quality, advanced treatment — close to home — and work with you and your family to make sure your care is second to none.

To get more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (844) 346-7222. You can also contact the RCCA location nearest you.

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