8 Things to Know About a Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis

Don’t handle a pancreatic cancer diagnosis alone, and remember that, as a patient, you are your own best advocate.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you may be wondering things like, what stage is the cancer? Can the tumor be removed with surgery? What are the best treatment options? And the questions certainly don’t stop there.

First and foremost, don’t try to handle the diagnosis alone. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN) Patient Central is here to help every step of the way. PanCAN’s highly trained and compassionate Patient Central Associates provide free, personalized information about the disease, including treatment options and support services. They can also find resources for any questions you have related to pancreatic cancer.

Below are eight important things to know about a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

  • Know that seeing pancreatic cancer specialists, physicians who diagnose and treat a high volume of pancreatic cancer patients, improves outcomes. We strongly recommend consulting with pancreatic cancer specialists who have experience diagnosing and treating the disease. Be willing to travel, if you can, and get a second opinion on your diagnosis and plan of action.
  • Know what type of pancreatic cancer it is. Pancreatic tumors are either exocrine or neuroendocrine, based on the type of cell they start in. While the exocrine type (adenocarcinoma) is the most common, knowing the type of tumor is important because each type acts differently and responds to different treatments.
  • Know what stage the pancreatic cancer is, and what it means. The stage of the disease is important because it helps doctors determine treatment choices by stage.
  • Ask if the patient is eligible for surgery. About 30 to 50 percent of patients who are eligible for surgery are told they are ineligible. We strongly recommend you see a surgeon who performs a high volume of pancreatic surgeries (more than 15 per year) to determine eligibility. For eligible patients, surgery is the best option for the long-term survival of pancreatic cancer.

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