Pancreatic cancer develops when abnormal cells start to grow out of control in the pancreas. The pancreas lies deep in the abdomen just below the stomach. It serves important purposes, including secreting enzymes that help digest food, and it produces hormones, such as insulin, that regulates how the body processes sugar.
There are several types of pancreatic cancers. The most common type is adenocarcinoma. Other types of pancreatic tumors are neuroendocrine tumors, cystic neoplasms, solid pseudopapillary neoplasms, and lymphomas.
Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
If you experience any of the following signs of possible pancreatic cancer, it’s important that you see a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis.
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in stool color
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
It is important to know that these symptoms can be from many non-cancerous (benign) conditions other than pancreatic cancer, but should be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.
Screening for Pancreatic Cancer
If you are at high risk for developing pancreatic cancer, your doctor will suggest that we monitor you and screen you in order to catch early stages of pancreatic cancer.
Risks for pancreatic cancer may include:
- Pancreatic cysts: While not all pancreatic cysts have the potential to become cancerous, some do. Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) or mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCNs) may put you at risk. Your gastroenterologist will determine if you require surveillance and more treatment.
- Genetics: You are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer if you have two or more family members with pancreatic cancer. Another risk factor may be genetic mutations such as BRCA1, BRCA2, ATM, PALB2, CDKN2A/P16, Lynch syndrome, and other rare genes. We can advise you about genetic testing and screening if your genetics put you at risk.
Mount Sinai researchers and clinicians will work with you to determine if any imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) will help you.
Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer
Your doctor may perform a computed tomography (CT) scan at the first sign of a pancreatic cancer. A biopsy can confirm the findings of an abnormal CT scan. Your doctor may use a special endoscopy tube with an ultrasound probe on the end of it, an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) to better visualize the pancreas to sample any abnormalities.
EUS can also evaluate how close any affected tissue (lesions) may be to blood vessels. It also helps us visualize the liver, lymph nodes, and other abdominal organs. Experts at Mount Sinai are equipped with the latest endoscopic equipment and are trained in the most recent advances in endoscopic diagnosis and therapy for pancreatic diseases.
Treatments We Offer
At Mount Sinai, we take a multidisciplinary approach to pancreatic cancer treatment. Your team consists of gastroenterologists, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, social workers, and nutritionists. We have the expertise to use advanced endoscopic techniques, such as endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), and stent placement.
We are dedicated to providing every aspect of your care, and we are with you every step of the way.