Pancreatic Cancer

If you have received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, your best option is to be treated where a high volume of these cases are seen, like Mount Sinai. We are home to highly skilled pancreatic cancer surgeons who have significant experience treating pancreatic cancer at every stage.

About Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is a long, thin organ in the abdomen that produces digestive enzymes and hormones, such as insulin. When it is functioning properly, the pancreas regulates how cells divide. Pancreatic cancer is the growth of cancer cells within the pancreas leading to the formation of a tumor, which impairs the organ’s ability to control the way cells divide.

Diagnosing pancreatic cancer

We diagnose pancreatic cancer by conducting a physical exam, and reviewing your symptoms and medical history. We may also order blood and urine tests, and perform imaging tests such as the following to evaluate your pancreas and nearby organs:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan—uses X-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan—uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the body
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)—uses an endoscope to look at the bile ducts
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC)­—uses an X-ray to look at the bile ducts

Your physician may also order a biopsy, which is the removal of a sample of pancreatic tissue in order to test for cancer cells.

These exams and tests will help determine the stage of your cancer, which we then use to guide your individualized treatment plan. Like other cancers, pancreatic cancer can be stage I to IV, with stage I indicating a localized cancer, and stage IV indicating spread to other areas of the body.

We discuss your diagnosis at a weekly Gastroenterology (GI)-Oncology Tumor Board Conference, which consists of at least 20 experts from all areas of medicine. Our team pools individual expertise to understand your unique medical history and current condition. We agree on a best course of action, to create a personalized cancer treatment plan for you.

In addition, we enhance the care we provide through our robust research activities, which may offer you direct access to emerging treatments and opportunities. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor the option of enrolling in one of our clinical trials.  

Procedures we perform 

Surgery is an excellent treatment when your tumor has not spread beyond your pancreas and when we can remove the entire tumor because it is contained. Mount Sinai pancreatic cancer surgeons have unique expertise in using several different surgical techniques to remove pancreatic tumors, including the following:

  • Distal pancreatectomy—removes the center and tip of the pancreas, while leaving the head of the pancreas intact and may involve removing the spleen. We often perform this procedure laparoscopically, which results in a short hospital stay, less scarring, and limited post-operative pain.
  • Whipple procedure or pancreaticoduodenectomy—removes the head of the pancreas and the other attached organs, including part of the stomach, the gallbladder, and the common bile duct. The procedure leaves the center and tip of the pancreas in place, allowing your pancreas to continue to produce insulin and digestive enzymes.
  • Total pancreatectomy—removes the entire pancreas, the common bile duct, and nearby lymph nodes, after surgery, you will work with endocrinology specialists who will create a plan to help replace insulin and pancreatic enzymes.

Our surgeons are also skilled in the latest robotic techniques to perform pancreatic surgery.

Depending on your condition, we may recommend radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells and reduce the size of your tumor.

We may administer chemotherapy in the form of a pill, infusion, or via a port either to shrink a tumor before surgery, to treat a cancer that has spread, or to lower the chance of recurrence after surgery.

Our surgeons also use irreversible electroporation to treat pancreatic cancer. If pain management is a focus of treatment, we offer complete care to ensure your quality of life.