Pancreatic Cancer

graphic of a pancreas in the human body

Pancreatic cancer is a formidable disease but advances in the last decade have resulted in better treatments that improve the chance of a cure. At the Abramson Cancer Center, you have a full team of accomplished, experienced doctors and researchers by your side. Our specialists are deeply committed to delivering expert, personalized care that offers the most options for every patient.

About Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is a gland deep inside the abdomen that helps your body digest food and keeps blood sugar levels steady. Pancreatic cancer is a fast-growing cancer that occurs when normal cells in the pancreas mutate (change) and start to grow uncontrollably. There are currently no reliable screening tests for the disease.

Most pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that grows in mucus-secreting glands. Neuroendocrine tumors can also develop inside the pancreas. While all pancreatic tumors have similar traits, doctors treat them in very different ways.

Our doctors have a deep understanding of how to best diagnose and treat all types of pancreatic tumors. Learn more about:

Why Choose Abramson Cancer Center for Pancreatic Cancer Care?

Penn Medicine’s pancreatic cancer specialists are highly regarded around the world for their expertise. Our multidisciplinary team of gastroenterologists, surgeons, oncologists and other specialists understands the importance of personalized, compassionate treatment. We stay in close contact with you during your treatment and ensure you can reach us at any time through our easy-to-navigate patient portal, myPennMedicine.

When you come to us, you can expect:

  • Highly trained experts: Our tightly knit team of fellowship-trained specialists works to carefully review and analyze the details of every case. Multiple doctors provide evidence-based treatment recommendations that fit your life. Our close professional relationships allow us to adapt your treatment plan quickly if necessary.
  • Exceptional surgical skill: Penn is an ultra-high-volume center for pancreatic cancer surgeries, including the Whipple procedure. Our surgeons perform more complex procedures to remove hard-to-treat pancreatic tumors than any other center in the region. This volume leads to an exceptional quality of care.
  • Personalized treatments: At Penn’s Center for Personalized Diagnostics, pathologists and oncologists work together to find the most precise treatments based on a tumor’s DNA.
  • Leading-edge research: Penn pioneered the world’s first approved CAR T-cell therapy that helps your body’s immune system fight cancer. At the Penn Pancreatic Research Center, scientists, surgeons, oncologists and other specialists work to improve pancreatic cancer detection and expand treatment options. Our efforts result in more options for patients with both early and advanced disease.
  • Cancer genetics expertise: Some pancreatic cancers are caused by gene mutations (including BRCA1 and BRCA2) that run in families. We provide all newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer patients with point-of-care genetic testing. Our genetic counselors then help people assess their cancer risk and make informed treatment decisions. Learn more about pancreatic cancer risk management.
  • One-on-one support: Our nurse navigator is here to support you throughout treatment. He or she can schedule appointments and connect you with the right specialists quickly. Learn more about navigating GI cancer.
  • The care you need, close to home: We make it easier for you to access our expertise. GI cancer specialists at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and satellite locations collaborate to get you the treatment you need, no matter where you live.

Our Approach to Pancreatic Cancer Treatment: The Penn Medicine Advantage

Pancreatic cancer is a complex disease that requires input from multiple experts and a combination of treatments. We recommend personalized treatments based on detailed imaging and genetic tests, so you know you’re getting the most cutting-edge and effective therapies.

Pancreatic cancer treatment options include:

  • Surgery: We consider surgery for every patient with pancreatic cancer that hasn’t spread beyond the pancreas. Our surgeons collaborate to remove hard-to-treat tumors and rebuild critical blood vessels. We successfully treat many advanced tumors that other centers can’t. Learn more about pancreatic cancer surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: Your specialists may recommend one or more cancer-destroying drugs delivered before or after surgery. These oral or intravenous (IV) therapies can sometimes shrink tumors enough to make surgery an option for more advanced cancer.
  • Immunotherapy: These newer cancer drugs help the immune system attack cancer cells more effectively.
  • Targeted therapy: These medications target specific changes in cancer cells that allow them to grow and spread. We use specialized tests to match you with therapies that are right for you.
  • Radiation therapy: We offer a full array of innovative radiation therapy offerings, including proton therapy.
  • Clinical trials: Our scientists pursue many types of cancer research. These innovations help us provide leading-edge treatment options for all stages of pancreatic cancer, even metastatic disease. Read about our GI cancer research.
  • Supportive care: Supportive services take care of your whole health during treatment. We can connect you with resources including nutrition guidance and emotional support.

Comprehensive Pancreatic Cancer Surveillance

When your treatment is over, our team is still here for you with regular checkups and routine tests. An advanced nurse practitioner specialized in the long-term health needs of GI cancer patients streamlines your follow-up care. We provide advice on how to make healthy decisions and minimize long- and short-term cancer treatment side effects.

Request an Appointment

Call 215-615-0534 to speak with our pancreatic cancer nurse navigator who can guide you to the right pancreatic cancer expert for your needs. You can also request an appointment online.