Conditions We Treat: Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer starts in the pancreas, a large organ behind the stomach. It makes and releases enzymes into the intestines that help the body digest and absorb food, especially fats. The pancreas also makes and releases insulin and glucagon, which help control blood sugar levels. Based on the cells affected, there are different types of pancreatic cancer including adenocarcinoma, glucagonoma, insulinoma, islet cell tumor, and VIPoma.

By the time you receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment should start as quickly as possible – a challenge made easier when you rely on the experienced team at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology, in Flemington, New Jersey. The board-certified oncologists work closely with you, explaining your treatment options and offering the supportive care you need, from symptom management and dietary recommendations to personalized pancreatic cancer treatments.

Pancreatic Cancer FAQs

What causes pancreatic cancer?

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. It is more common in people who:

  • Are obese
  • Have a diet high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables
  • Have diabetes
  • Have long-term exposure to certain chemicals
  • Have long-term inflammation of the pancreas (chronic pancreatitis)
  • Smoke

Pancreatic cancer is slightly more common in women than in men, and risk increases with age.

What are the different types of pancreatic cancer?

The pancreas, which is behind your stomach, has two functions: It serves as an exocrine gland that produces digestive enzymes and as an endocrine gland, producing hormones that regulate blood sugar and insulin. You can develop pancreatic cancer in both areas.

Exocrine Tumors
Pancreatic cancer most often begins when exocrine cells start to grow abnormally. While there are several types of exocrine tumors, the most common is called adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.

Endocrine Tumors
Endocrine or neuroendocrine tumors start in the hormone-producing cells. This type of pancreatic cancer represents about 6% of all cases of pancreatic cancer.

The tumor may or may not produce hormones. Functioning neuroendocrine tumors are named according to the hormones they make.

What symptoms develop due to pancreatic cancer?

Most people don’t develop symptoms until pancreatic cancer reaches an advanced stage. You may experience:

  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • General itching
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored and foul-smelling stool
  • Pain in your upper abdomen or back
  • Painful swelling of an arm or leg
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever

You may also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

How is pancreatic cancer treated?

Surgery to remove the tumor only occurs if the cancer has not spread. In most patients, pancreatic cancer has metastasized by the time they develop symptoms and get a diagnosis.

If surgery is an option for you, Hunterdon Hematology Oncology may provide systemic therapy, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, before your procedure to shrink the tumor. Then, your doctor restages the cancer before planning your surgery.

Hunterdon Hematology Oncology specializes in the following pancreatic cancer treatments:

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-ray beams or protons to destroy cancer cells. Your doctor at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology talks with you about the different types of radiation therapy and which is best for your cancer.

During chemotherapy, you receive one or several drugs, often via an infusion, to destroy the cancer cells. Chemotherapy may serve as your first line of treatment for advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer. You may also receive chemotherapy after other treatments don’t work.

Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy refers to medications that specifically target the cancer cells, stopping them from growing and spreading. These medications are usually taken orally.

Immunotherapy boosts your body’s immune system so it can do a better job of fighting your pancreatic cancer. This type of treatment only targets cancers with specific characteristics, so you’re tested first to determine if you’re a good candidate.

What other services might I receive during pancreatic cancer treatment?

Managing your symptoms is an integral part of cancer treatment at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology. The team offers an array of services onsite, giving you convenient and comprehensive care during recovery.

For example, they perform lab services and have a pharmacy onsite. You may need prescription hormones or digestive enzymes to make up for pancreatic dysfunction.

You may also receive help with your diet or have counseling that supports the emotional needs of you, your family, and caregivers. Hunterdon Hematology Oncology also offers an advanced scalp cooling system that helps prevent chemotherapy-related hair loss.

If you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you won’t face treatment alone when you choose comprehensive care at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology. Call or book an appointment online today.

About HHO

Hunterdon Hematology Oncology is a community oncology group, dedicated to fighting cancer in this community and across the region. Our Doctors, Physician’s Assistants and Nurses work tirelessly. They fight hard so that you can win.


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