Early Stage Pancreatic Cancer Treatment: A Missed Opportunity

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 12:59pm
Associate Professor, Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Department of Surgical Oncology Director, Liver and Pancreas Tumor Center

Early stage pancreatic cancer is primarily treated with surgery. However, only one-third of early stage pancreatic cancer patients in the U.S. are referred to a surgeon or a comprehensive cancer institute and undergo surgery. A common misconception about pancreatic cancer is the lack of treatment options and the grim prognosis. But if caught early, pancreatic cancer is treatable and potentially curable. As Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month comes to a close, it’s critically important to educate patients about the options and the importance of early detection. 

Pancreatic cancer is called a silent killer because it often grows or spreads undetected. And like many cancers, it presents few warning signs. Symptoms often resemble other illnesses, such as diabetes, and may include:

  • Dark urine, pale stools
  • Stools that float in the toilet
  • Middle back pain, that is unrelieved by position change
  • Non-specific upper belly pain
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite; feeling of fullness

By allowing a team of experts like we have at Roswell Park to properly evaluate the stage of disease, patients are offered the best hope for treatment success.

If a patient presents with a more advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy or a new targeted drug treatment may be offered through our clinical research studies. Many of these new drugs are showing great promise in improving response rates, survival rates and quality of life.

If you know someone who has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, please spread the word. Pancreatic cancer that is found early enough can be removed by surgery and, in many cases, cured.

For more information, visit our Liver and Pancreas Tumor Center website or call at 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) for advice, to make an appointment, or for a second opinion.