Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer forms when malignant cells are found in the tissue of the pancreas, an organ found behind the stomach that is surrounded by tissues and organs important for proper functioning. The pancreas produces enzymes that contribute to proper digestion.

Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death, spreading quickly and rarely detected early on. It often impacts African-Americans, those who are overweight or obese and those with diabetes.

Various Imaging Tests Used for Diagnosis

Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI, are often used to detect pancreatic cancer.

The Pancreas is Located in the Abdomen

Pancreatic cancer begins in the organ that secretes enzymes that help regulate metabolism and digestion.

The following symptoms of pancreatic cancer tend to appear after the disease has advanced. They are common symptoms for various conditions, so your doctor may check for various ailments, including pancreatic cancer. These symptoms include:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Blood clots
  • Yellowing of skin and the whites of eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, see your doctor.

As with many cancers, pancreatic cancer may be detected through various imaging tests, including ultrasounds, computerized tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imagining (MRI). A physician may complete a biopsy as well, which involves the removal of a tissue sample that is then examined for the presence of cancer.

It is incredibly difficult to treat pancreatic cancer with an effective dose of radiation without then compromising critical tissues and organs, including the kidneys, stomach and spinal cord. A combination of treatment methods is often used, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but the use of traditional radiation therapy is challenging, because of the pancreas’ proximity to other organs.

Proton therapy provides an opportunity for treatment that is less likely to compromise these surrounding tissues and organs. Physicians are able to precisely target the area of the body receiving radiation, while the protons themselves will enter the body and stop once they have reached the end of the treatment path determined by the radiation therapist. The chances of eliminating the cancer increases while the transfer of radiation to surrounding tissue decreases.