Newly Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer
There are many challenges associated with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Having access to accurate, up-to-date information on the disease, as well as current treatment options and available supportive services, can help you and your loved ones make informed decisions about your care.
Pancreatic Cancer Experience Counts
There are many advantages to receiving treatment at a large cancer center. A center that treats a high number of patients with pancreatic cancer will have more experience in every aspect of your care: diagnosis, staging, surgery, and managing pancreatic cancer side effects and complications. More experience usually means more expertise, which can improve the results of your treatment. For example, at a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center you may be able to have a type of surgery for pancreatic cancer that a small hospital may not be able to offer. Or another hospital may offer the procedure, but not many are performed there. You want a facility that treats many patients with pancreatic cancer.
Many Americans live a manageable distance from a major cancer center. At one Comprehensive Cancer Center, as many as half of patients are seen for a single visit. Often doctors at top cancer centers can plan patients’ treatments, then refer them to doctors closer to home who will carry out the treatments.
Getting a Second Opinion
It may feel much safer and simpler to take the advice of the doctor who diagnosed your cancer, but getting a second opinion by an expert in your type of pancreatic cancer cancer may be a wiser choice. NCI recommends that all patients with cancer get a second opinion for two reasons: (1) to confirm the diagnosis and (2) to review the proposed course of treatment. You may want to obtain a second opinion for a number of reasons, including:
- Peace of mind
- To confirm that your diagnosis is correct and that you will be receiving the most up-to-date treatment
- Because your doctor is not experienced in pancreatic cancer. You may have read about a treatment your doctor does not know about, and may wish to pursue such a treatment. If you decide to get a second opinion, it may be best to go to an expert who is not affiliated with your doctor and to a hospital that is not affiliated with your hospital. This is so that you can obtain an unbiased review of your individual case.
A Word About Pancreatic Cancer Surgery
The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer approaches 40% if the cancers are surgically removed while they are still small and have not spread to the lymph nodes. Post-operative complications are lower and survival is improved when pancreatic cancer surgery is performed at specialized (high-volume) centers than when the same surgery is performed at hospitals with a low pancreatic cancer surgery volume. According to a special article in the New England Journal of Medicine [April 11, 2002, Vol. 346(15), pp. 1123-1137], high-volume center is defined as a center that performs at least 16 Whipple procedures each year.