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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most serious types of cancer.

And we are just as serious about helping you through it. 

Very little can prepare you for the moment your doctor confirms that it’s pancreatic cancer.

Your diagnosis is undoubtedly accompanied by a flood of feelings, questions and concerns.

We want you to know there is hope. And help.

Throughout your Care Plan, we’ll be with you, helping you navigate this new, unfamiliar, and sometimes confusing chapter in your life, marrying the clinical with the compassionate; providing you the precise care, and caring, you need.  

As questions arise throughout your Care Plan — whether they are about treatment, clinical trial eligibility, educational classes and programs, or any of our many other resources available — we are here to answer any and all of them.

Pancreatic Cancer Basics Treatments and Procedures

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: What is pancreatic cancer and what causes it?


    Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. There are two types of pancreatic cancer:

    • Adenocarcinoma, also referred to as exocrine tumors, forms in the ducts of the pancreas. The ducts are lined with cells that aid in digestion. The majority of pancreatic cancers are this type.
    • Endocrine cancer of the pancreas forms in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. Pancreatic hormones help balance blood sugar. This cancer type is very rare.

    It is not known what causes pancreatic cancer; however, there are risk factors that can increase the chances of getting the disease, such as a family history, smoking, chronic inflammation of the pancreas (known as chronic pancreatitis) and other factors listed by the American Cancer Society.

  • Q: Where do I find more information on pancreatic cancer?


    There’s a lot of information about pancreatic cancer on the Web and in bookstores. We recommend you start with the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute for their comprehensive expertise. From there you’ll find more resources.

    Visit these websites for more information on pancreatic cancer:

  • Q: What does it mean if my cancer spreads? How does it happen?


    Cancer spreads when the tumor’s cancer cells enter the blood stream or the lymph nodes. This spreading is referred to as “metastasis,” and the cancer is referred to as metastatic cancer. Because the metastatic cells are from the original cancer, referred to as the “primary,” the cancer is still the original cancer, although existing now in another part of the body. For example:

    • If pancreatic cancer metastasizes into the liver, the tumor that forms in the liver is made up of pancreatic cancer cells. It is still pancreatic cancer, even though it’s now located in the liver.

    Treatment for metastatic cancer will depend on where it began (its primary source), the location and size of the metastatic cancer, previous cancer treatments and the patient’s health.

  • Q: Is pancreatic cancer treatable?

    A: Yes. Pancreatic cancer treatment options depend on the type and stage of the cancer. Additional factors determining the kind of treatment include your age and health. Talk to your doctor about the stage of your pancreatic cancer and how it will likely respond to treatment options.
  • Q: Does OhioHealth treat pancreatic cancer?

    A: Yes. We provide pancreatic cancer patients with the best care available in the battle of this serious disease. We have an experienced team of doctors who specialize in pancreatic cancer treatment.
  • Q: What are the different stages of pancreatic cancer?


    Staging is the process of determining the extent of the cancer, whether or not it has spread within the pancreas and/or outside of the pancreas to other organs. Staging is important in determining the type of treatment most appropriate for the cancer.

    The National Cancer Institute describes the stages of pancreatic cancer in this way: 

    Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)
    In Stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the lining of the pancreas. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

    Stage I
    In Stage I, cancer has formed and is found in the pancreas only. Stage I is divided into Stage IA and Stage IB, based on the size of the tumor.

    • Stage IA: The tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller.
    • Stage IB: The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters.

    Stage II 
    In Stage II, cancer may have spread to nearby tissue and organs, and may have spread to lymph nodes near the pancreas. Stage II is divided into Stage IIA and Stage IIB, based on where the cancer has spread.

    • Stage IIA: Cancer has spread to nearby tissue and organs but has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.
    • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and may have spread to nearby tissue and organs.

    Stage III 
    In Stage III, cancer has spread to the major blood vessels near the pancreas and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes. 

    Stage IV In Stage IV, cancer may be of any size and has spread to distant organs, such as the liver, lung and peritoneal cavity (the space within the abdomen that contains the intestines, the stomach and the liver). It may have also spread to organs and tissues near the pancreas or to lymph nodes. 

    This is cancer that has been treated and has returned after a period of time when the cancer could not be detected. The disease may return in the pancreas or in another part of the body.

  • Q: How serious is my pancreatic cancer diagnosis?

    A: We understand this is the biggest question for someone newly diagnosed with any cancer. The answer you’re looking for, however, is individual to you — just as it is individual to other pancreatic cancer patients — and so cannot be generalized in an FAQ. 

    At OhioHealth, we have the advanced technology to diagnose and treat this disease. We have highly skilled and experienced physicians who know how to fight it. 

    It’s important to talk to your doctor about the seriousness of your pancreatic cancer diagnosis with a friend or family member present to help you hear and remember the information your doctor shares with you. Ask your doctor to explain the stage your cancer is in and what that means for your treatment and recovery. Share with your doctor your fears and concerns.
  • Q: Will surgery be part of my treatment?

    A: Whether surgery will be considered part of your treatment depends on your individual cancer condition, as well as how well you would respond to surgery. Your doctor and others on your Cancer Care Team will work closely with you to help determine treatment options best for you.
  • Q: Does OhioHealth offer any clinical trials for pancreatic cancer?

    A: Talk to your doctor about your interest in participating in a clinical trial for pancreatic cancer. Your doctor will be able to give you information about any trials for pancreatic cancer going on at OhioHealth. You may also visit the National Cancer Institute’s website for information on clinical trials to help you learn more about them, so that you may have an informed discussion with your doctor.
  • Q: What treatment options are available to me, and how will they affect my daily life?

    A: The majority of pancreatic cancers are treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these three. Options available to you will be determined by the type and stage of your cancer. Also, the state of your general health will be considered, as well as if the cancer is new or returning and if the tumor can be removed. 

    Your doctor will explain the options to you and share how the treatments may affect your quality of life. We recommend you have a family member or friend with you during the conversation. It helps to have someone listening with you and taking notes that you can refer back to later, in the quiet of your home.

Want more answers? Browse all of the OhioHealth cancer patient FAQs. General FAQ

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Guiding you through your Cancer Care Plan.

“I consider it a privilege to help people facing cancer.” - Kathy Grannan, RN, MSN, CNL

Patient Navigator Kathy Grannan