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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a uniquely difficult cancer to treat because it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. However, the pancreatic cancer experts at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center have the depth of expertise and experience to treat the full range of pancreatic tumors – with compassion and skill. Our team is at the forefront of researching and developing new pancreatic cancer treatments to improve your quality of life.

Pancreatic Cancer: Why Choose Vanderbilt-Ingram

  • Leading treatment center. Vanderbilt-Ingram is a high-volume center for pancreatic cancer and pancreatic surgeries. Research shows that receiving care at a high-volume cancer center leads to better results. We are the only hospital in Tennessee approved by the National Pancreas Foundation to care for patients with pancreatic cancer.
  • Advanced treatments. Our team offers some of the most sophisticated treatments available, including the Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy) with vascular resection. 
  • A collaborative team approach. At our regular tumor boards (cancer care meetings), our cancer experts discuss complex pancreatic tumor cases individually. This means some of the nation's leading cancer experts across medical disciplines collaborate on developing a personalized treatment plan for you. Your care team may include surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nutritionists and genetic counselors.
  • Robust clinical trial program. As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, our researchers are at the forefront of discovering new and more effective ways to treat pancreatic cancers. We offer access to clinical trials investigating new treatments and therapies before they are widely available. Learn more about clinical trials at Vanderbilt-Ingram.
  • Expert second opinion. Often, patients seek us for a second opinion on their diagnosis or treatment plan. An expert second opinion can help provide clarity, so you can decide on the treatment option that is best for you. If another cancer center has told you that your tumor is unresectable (unable to be removed with surgery), you may find hope at Vanderbilt-Ingram. Our expert surgeons have extensive experience performing these procedures, safely and effectively. Learn more about second opinions.
  • Support services. Cancer affects all aspects of your life, and it affects you even after treatment. We offer an array of support services – including a survivorship program and an integrative care center – to help you during treatment and in your life after treatment.

Types of Pancreatic Tumors We Treat

Our team of specialists treat a range of conditions, including:

  • Pancreatic adenocarcinoma
  • Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NET)
    • Pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • Pancreatic cystic tumors
    • Intra-ductal papillary mucinous neoplasms
    • Mucinous cystic neoplasms
    • Serous cystadenomas
  • Metastatic tumors of the pancreas
    • Renal cell carcinoma
    • Melanoma
  • Solid pseudopapillary tumors

Diagnostic Tests We Offer

Diagnostic tests and procedures for pancreatic cancer may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP)
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC)

Pancreatic Tumor Treatments

Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: Our skilled surgeons can remove even the most complex tumors, especially those requiring vascular resections and reconstructions (both venous and arterial). Many operations are performed using minimally invasive techniques. Surgeries that we perform include:
    • Whipple procedure. During this surgery, also called a pancreaticoduodenectomy, we remove the head of your pancreas and sometimes the main body of your pancreas. We also remove your gallbladder, the duodenum (first part of your small intestine) and part of the common bile duct. In some cases, we may need to remove part of your stomach or nearby lymph nodes.
    • Distal pancreatectomy. This surgery involves only removing a tumor from the tail of your pancreas, or the tail and a portion of the main body of your pancreas. We may also remove your spleen.
    • Total pancreatectomy. This surgery removes your entire pancreas, spleen, gallbladder and parts of your stomach and duodenum (first part of your small intestine).
    • Central pancreatectomy: During this surgery, we remove a tumor in the main body of your pancreas. This preserves the head and tail of your pancreas.
    • Enucleation. For some small pancreatic tumors and cysts, we remove only the tumor while preserving your normal pancreas. We can perform this surgery laparoscopically (using small incisions) to preserve your pancreas and allow for a rapid recovery.
  • Chemotherapy: Your doctor may recommend strong medication to shrink or destroy the cancer. We offer chemotherapy services at multiple infusion centers, so you can get care at the location that’s closest to you.
  • Radiation: We may use radiation either before or after another treatment method to shrink the tumor and increase the success of that treatment. Radiation targets high-energy rays at the tumor.
  • Precision medicine: Certain cancer-causing genes respond well to specific medications. We use precision medicine to determine if you have those particular genes. Your doctor might recommend testing to determine if this is the right treatment for you. 
  • Clinical trials: Sometimes the best option is one that is still being tested. You may be eligible to participate in a trial when other treatment options aren’t appropriate for you. As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram is nationally recognized for its clinical trial program.

Pancreatic Cancer: Patient Story

Margaret's Story

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