Lutheran Cancer Center: Spotlight on Pancreatic Cancer

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

What does the pancreas do?
The pancreas is a gland deep within the abdomen serving two functions. The gland produces:

  • endocrine cells to make hormones like insulin and glucagon which help regulate blood sugar levels
  • exocrine cells to make digestive juices or enzymes that help break down food

Pancreatic Cancer Facts
An estimated 53,670 new pancreatic cancer cases in 2017
Approximately 1.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
Approximately 64,668 people living with pancreatic cancer in the United States
Source: The National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program

What causes pancreatic cancer?
The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is currently unknown so there is no known way to prevent it. Some possible risk factors include older age, a history of pancreatitis, smoking, obesity, diabetes and a family history of pancreatic cancer.

Can I be screened for pancreatic cancer?
No, there is no standard screening test at this time. Often, patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after suffering from a hallmark of symptoms. Some symptoms include abdominal pain radiating to the back, jaundice and weight loss.

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
A diagnosis can be made at Lutheran Hospital using a combination of imaging, blood tests and an endoscopic ultrasound with biopsy. Maurits Wiersema, MD*, performs endoscopic ultrasounds at Lutheran Hospital.

What are the treatment options?
As a comprehensive cancer treatment center, treatments are determined by coordinating multiple modalities. Treatment may be a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Neal Agee, MD*, fellowship-trained surgical oncologist, performs pancreaticoduodenectomies (Whipple) and complete pancreatectomies to remove the cancer.

The Cancer Resource Center at Lutheran Hospital
Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have access to resources, education and support at the Lutheran Cancer Resource Center. Christy Bethay, RN, BSN, GI oncology nurse navigator, helps patients and their families through the complex process of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Call the Cancer Resource Center for more information, (260) 435-7959.
*Member of the medical staff of Lutheran Hospital.

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If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.
*ER wait times are door to clinical professional and can change quickly depending on the urgency of patients that arrive by ambulance. Lutheran Health Network provides care to patients with life-threatening illnesses first.
Patients are seen in order of severity, therefore, your spot may not be guaranteed. In case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
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Patient results may vary. Consult your physician about the benefits and risks of any surgical procedure or treatment.