Pancreatic Cancer Treatment – How to Choose a Treatment Team

Last updated date: 04-Jan-2022


7 mins read

Cancer is a disease which affects us all in some way or another. Even if we have never suffered with the disease personally, we almost certainly will know somebody who has, be it a grandparent, a parent, a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the rarer forms of cancer out there, but that doesn’t make the pancreatic cancer symptoms any less severe, or the condition any less deadly.

1 in 2 people will contract cancer in their lifetimes, yet the good news regarding pancreatic cancer treatment is that because of the advances in modern medicine over the years, the pancreatic cancer survival rate is currently higher than ever before, which is very promising indeed.

If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you will almost certainly be scared and will have a whole bunch of questions to ask, while being eager to start treatment as soon as possible. This is where it is so important to choose the right pancreatic treatment team and the right hospital to receive your treatment in.

To help ensure that you choose the most skilled and highly capable pancreatic treatment team out there, here are some important considerations.


What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the rarer forms of cancer out there, which begins in the tissue located within your pancreas.

Your pancreas is an organ which plays a key role in digestion as it secretes enzymes and hormones such as insulin to help regulate your blood glucose levels when you eat.

Now, growths within the pancreas are quite common, though it is important to remember that some of these growths may actually be non-cancerous tumours. Usually however, pancreatic cancer will begin in the cells which are located within the ducts responsible for transporting digestive enzymes from the pancreas.

One of the biggest downsides to pancreatic cancer is the fact that it is so tough to detect when it is in its early stages, yet here is when the cancer is at its most curable. One of the main reasons why it is so difficult to detect is that there are not many pancreatic cancer symptoms and they only tend to display themselves when the cancer has unfortunately spread.

The good news however, is that pancreatic cancer survival rate stats are becoming more positive which means more people are recovering from this disease now than ever before.


Common pancreatic cancer symptoms

In order for your doctor to make a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, you will need to be aware of some of the more common pancreatic cancer symptoms which are out there.

The more aware of the symptoms you are, the greater your chances will be of getting an early diagnosis and making a full recovery.

Some common pancreatic cancer symptoms include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and of the whites of the eyes)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Light coloured stools
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Itching of the skin
  • Blood clots
  • Abdominal pain and cramps which may radiate into your back
  • Diabetes diagnosis or diabetes which is becoming even harder to control and manage

If you experience any of the symptoms above or any unexplained symptoms which may be worrying to you, you should always contact your doctor and have a pancreatic test carried out as it is always better to be safe than sorry.


Pancreatic cancer risk factors

Pancreatic cancer risk factors

Before we begin looking at the necessary steps you will need to take to choose the right treatment team to manage your pancreatic cancer symptoms, it is important to understand some of the risk factors which may increase your risk of this cancer.

Whereas experts do not fully understand what causes pancreatic cancer, there are certain risk factors which will increase your risk of suffering with pancreatic cancer. These include the following:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic inflammation of your pancreas
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Older age
  • Unhealthy dietary habits
  • Lack of nutrition


Choosing a pancreatic cancer treatment team

After your doctor has carried out a pancreatic cancer test and has indeed made a positive diagnosis, the next thing you need to do is work out a treatment plan and decide where you will be treated, and by who.

Here are some tips to help you choose a pancreatic cancer treatment team.

Look for experience

As far as finding a team of experts to treat your pancreatic cancer, one of the first things you will need to look out for is experience.

You want to find a team of experts that are highly experienced when it comes to treating various forms of cancer, especially pancreatic cancer.

The more experience they have, the more they will have learned about this disease and the more capable they will be of treating you and giving you the best care and treatment you can get. Ideally you need multidisciplinary oncologists who are capable of treating numerous strains of cancer in a variety of different ways.

Look for an experienced surgeon

One of the most effective treatments for pancreatic cancer is surgery, and if surgery is indeed the route which you and your doctor want to go down, it’s important to find an experienced surgeon.

Remember, surgery is invasive and there are a number of risks associated with surgery that you need to be wary of, which is why you need to ensure that your surgeon is indeed skilled, capable, and experienced when performing surgery on you.

Ideally, according to experts, you should look for a surgeon who has performed a minimum of 15 pancreatic surgeries each year in order to guarantee their skill, experience, and ability.

When speaking to doctors and surgeons, ask them outright how many pancreatic surgeries they perform each year. 

Determine whether your pancreatic cancer is rare

Another hugely important consideration when it comes to pancreatic cancer treatment is your specific type of cancer.

If for example, you are suffering with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, make sure that the doctor/experts you are considering for your treatment plan are indeed experienced in dealing with your specific pancreatic cancer.

Consider insurance coverage and finances

Consider insurance coverage and finances

Obviously when it comes to your health you can’t put a price on it, but the simple fact remains that cancer treatments can get expensive which is why you should consider your insurance coverage and your finances when deciding on a treatment team.

We know that finances can be tight and we know that not all health insurance will cover all treatments for all diseases.

Find out how much treatment will be, get some quotes, and be sure to check whether or not you are covered via your health insurance.

How far are you willing to travel

Remember, as far as pancreatic cancer treatments are concerned, you are not limited solely to hospitals and treatment facilities local to you.

More and more people are choosing to travel overseas and consider medical treatment abroad especially when it comes to cancer treatments and other potentially life-saving surgeries and treatments.

If you are willing to travel overseas, you literally have countless options available when choosing a treatment center and team for your cancer, but of course the only downside is the travel.

If you are happy to travel overseas and are happy to spend weeks, even months, away from your home whilst you receive the treatment and care you require, medical treatment overseas is a fantastic option.

Cancer treatment center or hospital

Remember, pancreatic cancer is one of the rarer cancers out there which means that fewer doctors are experienced in treating this particular cancer, so finding the necessary care is harder.

For example, rather than simply considering a hospital, as pancreatic cancer is so rare you might wish to consider an academic cancer center instead as they will be better equipped to treat your cancer, to offer you the support you need, and to get you on the road to recovery.

Not only that, but their doctors will also likely be more experienced and qualified to offer you the care and treatment you need so that is certainly well worth considering.

Ask them the questions you need to know

Remember, as it is you who will be undergoing various pancreatic cancer treatment methods you are well within your rights to ask your potential doctors what kind of treatments they provide.

Find out whether they use tumour biomarker testing along with genetic testing, find out what experience they have, find out how many patients they care for with pancreatic cancer each year, and ask them anything else you can think of which may be worrying you.


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