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Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Information
IU Health physicians use highly specialized methods for detect, diagnose, stage and treat pancreatic cancer. We focus on patient- and family-centered care that combines our expertise with your needs and requests. Together we develop the most effective plan for treating your pancreatic cancer.
Our treatments include:
- Surgery. Whenever possible, we remove pancreatic tumors. A variety of surgical techniques are used (laparoscopic, open, robotic, etc.). Laparoscopic and robotic surgery uses specialized instruments inserted through small incisions. These smaller incisions result in less pain and shorter recovery times. There are several different types of surgery for pancreatic cancer.
- Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs injected into a vein or given by mouth. These drugs enter the bloodstream and reach all areas of the body, making this treatment potentially useful for cancers that have spread beyond the pancreas. Chemotherapy for exocrine pancreatic cancer is commonly used when the cancer is advanced and cannot be removed completely with surgery. Chemotherapy for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors may also be used.
- Immunotherapy can stimulate your body’s immune system to fight the cancer even if it has spread beyond the pancreas.
- Radiotherapy is a powerful tool for treatment of pancreatic cancer. We use a number of focused radiation treatments to apply the power of radiation to cancerous cells with less damage to surrounding tissues.
- Cone-beam computer tomography (CBCT). This is a limited CT scan done the same day as each radiation treatment. The detailed CBCT image enables us to target radiation very precisely to pancreatic tumors.
- Four-dimensional CT simulation. This uses CT scanning to provide a picture of your tumor that takes into account the normal movement of your body (such as breathing).
- Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). This technique uses imaging done during treatment to guide precisely targeted radiation directly to the tumor.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Careful variations in the intensity of the radiation beam allow your physician to focus radiation on all parts of a pancreatic tumor with minimal effect on sensitive tissues around it.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). This is another targeted technology that allows us to send a beam of radiation into the tumor with minimal effect on normal tissue.
- Three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy. We use a computer-generated, 3D picture of the pancreatic tumor to guide a high dose of radiation.
- Endoscopic ultrasound-assisted cancer treatments. If you need radiation therapy, your physician may use EUS to place markers that will be used during image guided radiation therapy to ensure the radiation is as targeted as possible. For some cancers, your physician can use EUS to inject chemotherapy, ethanol and other medicines directly into a cyst, lesion or lymph node to improve outcomes or ablate (destroy) a pancreatic cyst.
- Cancer staging. The use of EUS for staging of pancreatic cancers is becoming more common. EUS provides better tumor and tissue visualization and helps your physician determine if surrounding blood vessels and organs are involved. EUS allows your gastroenterologist to see if you are a candidate for tumor removal (resection).
- Research. Many of the early insights into advanced uses of endoscopic ultrasound were discovered at IU Health. We continue to conduct and participate in clinical research that evaluates the role EUS can play in managing benign and malignant pancreatic, disorders. With EUS, we harvest tissue samples for pancreatic cancer studies. Our research also assesses new technologies and devices to develop the emerging field of interventional EUS.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an endoscopic procedure in which a camera is advanced into the small intestine. IU Health physicians helped to pioneer the use of this technique over 30 years ago in the United States. If the bile duct is obstructed from the tumor in the pancreas, yellowing of the skin (jaundice) may result. If this occurs, a stent can be placed into the duct to permit bile to drain from the liver.
- Accurately imaging and staging pancreatic cancer requires sophisticated technology in addition to ERCP and EUS. At IU Health, we routinely use high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scan. This provides three-dimensional pictures of the inside of your body.
Pancreatic Cancer Locations & Physicians
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Pancreatic Cancer Support Services
Pancreatic cancer is a complex disease. Learning as much as you can about this cancer and the particular type you have can help you work effectively with your physician. The websites below offer detailed information about pancreatic cancer and other resources you may find useful.
A Sampling of Pancreatic Cancer Support Services
Pancreatic Cancer Program at IU Health Simon Cancer Center
This site provides information on pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment, physicians and research available at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center.
Indiana University School of Medicine Gastroenterology EUS website
The websites below offer detailed information about pancreatic cancer and other resources you may find useful.
American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society provides extensive information about pancreatic cancer and tools to help you and your family live with pancreatic cancer.
National Cancer Institute
This website provides extensive information about pancreatic cancer including links to current clinical trials.
This national website provides basic information about pancreatic cancer, along with links to a wide variety of other resources.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
This organization supports research and provides information about pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer Alliance
This organization supports research and provides information about pancreatic cancer as well as support for people with pancreatic cancer. It also has a section about becoming an advocate for pancreatic cancer research and providing support to patients.