If you've been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you are probably facing a lot of questions, fears and emotions. The cancer specialists at Miami Cancer Institute are here to work closely with you to help develop a personalized care plan that involves advanced treatment options and compassionate care.
Your pancreatic cancer care team at Miami Cancer Institute is part of an integrated, multidisciplinary practice, where specialists can collaborate and provide comprehensive care, all under one roof. The skilled gastrointestinal oncologists at Miami Cancer Institute also have access to a range of advanced technologies to diagnose and treat your specific cancer, with the goal of creating a personalized plan that targets the disease.
We are dedicated to caring for you from diagnosis, to treatment, to post-cancer life. Each individualized cancer care plan includes innovative treatments and services — such as nutritional advice, physical rehabilitation and pain management — to address all of your health and wellness needs as a patient. We strive to find the treatment that is right for your cancer and to develop a treatment plan that considers your needs, wishes and lifestyle.
What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant, or cancerous, cells form in the pancreas.
The pancreas is a gland in the abdomen located behind the stomach. It is made up of exocrine cells and endocrine cells. Exocrine cells produce enzymes that help the body digest food. Endocrine cells make hormones – including insulin – that control blood sugar levels.
In some cases, pancreatic cysts may be found in the pancreas. These are usually noncancerous, or benign, but they can sometimes be precancerous and develop into cancer later. If your doctor suspects you have pancreatic cysts, he or she will test to see what type of cysts they are and may recommend a surveillance program to monitor them for growth.
What are the types of pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic tumors form in either the exocrine or endocrine cells of the pancreas.
Exocrine tumors are far more common than endocrine tumors and are usually cancerous, or malignant. Exocrine tumors typically start in the pancreatic ducts and are most often adenocarcinomas. Unfortunately, these tumors are usually not found until the cancer has advanced.
Endocrine tumors are less common and can be malignant or benign. These tumors are sometimes referred to as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) or islet cell tumors. Although the treatment for endocrine tumors depends on the tumor's type and stage, patients with endocrine tumors generally have a better prognosis compared with those with exocrine tumors.
What are the risk factors for pancreatic cancer?
One of the main risk factors for pancreatic cancer is having a family history of the disease. Inherited syndromes – including Lynch syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome – have been linked to pancreatic cancer. Our genetic counseling and testing team can help test for mutations and determine whether you have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Other factors that may increase risk of pancreatic cancer include:
- Smoking or using tobacco
- Being African-American. African-Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared to Hispanics, Caucasians or Asian-Americans.
- Being older than 55
- Being obese
- Having a personal history of diabetes
- Having chronic pancreatitis
- Being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, including pesticides, dyes, asbestos and petrochemicals
What can you do to prevent pancreatic cancer?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer. However, you can reduce your risk for pancreatic cancer by:
- Not using tobacco. Speak with your doctor if you need help quitting.
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet, which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about what you should include in a healthy diet.
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Keeping a healthy weight. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
- Asking your doctor about genetic testing. If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, you may have an inherited condition that increases your risk for disease.
Is pancreatic cancer screening available?
Typical wellness visits with your doctor do not include screening for pancreatic cancer. However, if you have a genetic disease that may increase your risk for pancreatic cancer, your doctor may recommend certain tests to check regularly for pancreatic cancer.
Together, we make a unified decision and the recommendation to the patient really gives the patient the opportunity to have a second, third, fourth, or fifth opinion right there from a single Center.