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Pancreatic Cancer

diagnosis · treatment · research

What pancreatic cancer is

The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach. The pancreas has two different types of glands: exocrine and endocrine.

The exocrine glands produce pancreatic “juice”, which is released into the intestines. This juice contains enzymes that help digest the food we eat. Without these enzymes, some of the food would simply pass through the intestines without being absorbed. The enzymes are released and transported through tiny tubes called ducts. These tiny ducts join together to form larger ducts that lead to the pancreatic duct.

The pancreatic duct joins with the common bile duct (the duct that carries bile from the liver), and releases pancreatic juice into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) at the ampulla of Vater. More than 95% of pancreatic cells make up the exocrine glands and ducts.

Exocrine and endocrine cells of the pancreas form tumours of different types. It is very important to distinguish between exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cancer. Each one has different risk factors, as well as different causes, signs and symptoms, and they are diagnosed using different tests, treated differently and have different prognoses.

Pancreatic cancer is usually detected in its advanced stages, because it does not usually cause symptoms until after it has spread to other organs in the body. The most common pancreatic cancer begins in the cells that line the ducts that carry digestive enzymes out of the pancreas (pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

The most common symptoms in pancreatic cancer are weight loss, jaundice, back pain and generalized itching.

It is not clear what causes pancreatic cancer. Some of the factors that may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer include smoking and certain inherited genetic mutations.

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits has been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of pancreatic cancer.

Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the extent of the cancer. They may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these.

Treatment of pancreatic cancer at the IVO

IVO Digestive Tumours Committee

The Digestive Tumours Committee is made up of a multidisciplinary team of expert professionals.

General and Digestive Surgery Service

The General and Digestive Surgery Service deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Medical Oncology Service

The Service's team of professionals accompanies cancer patients throughout the whole disease process.

Clinical trials

The current way we have of advancing and improving cancer treatment is through what we call "clinical trials".

A clinical trial is a research study carried out on people with the aim of learning more about how the body reacts to certain treatments. These trials generally seek to find drugs that are more effective than the current best therapeutic option for patients, or that have similar efficacy but a better toxicity profile.

Bearing in mind that almost all currently available treatments are the result of clinical research, the importance of clinical trials is obvious.

The IVO has a clinical trials unit for all types of tumours and participates in phase 1-3 studies as well as other types of studies.

Living with pancreatic cancer

coping with the diagnosis and receiving treatment and psychological support

Whether you receive the news of an initial diagnosis of cancer or a relapse, coping with cancer can be emotionally overwhelming. Each person has their own way of coping with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, but there are some recommendations that can help you through this process:

  • Maintain communication and the company of family and friends, the people closest to the patient, who can provide a support network throughout the process
  • Talk to other people who have survived cancer or who are in the same situation. There are many local and national associations and support groups. The Spanish Association Against Cancer (Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer) is perhaps the best-known one.
  • Inform yourself in order to make the best decisions about treatment and medical professionals.

Early Diagnosis

Nuclear Medicine


Radiation Therapy