Taking on a stubborn cancer
Pancreatic cancer is a notoriously stubborn disease to treat. The hepatobiliary cancer team at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital Cancer Center employs the latest treatments and technologies to diagnose, stage, and treat pancreatic cancer.
Accurate diagnosis and staging
Determining the type and stage of a pancreatic tumor dictates what kind of treatment you will have. Our interventional endoscopists use a range of technologies to analyze abnormal tissue and remove a sample for biopsy, including:
- endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
- endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
Interventional endoscopic therapies
A number of interventional treatments are available to relieve discomfort in people with advanced pancreatic cancer. Using ERCP, the doctor can open up and drain blocked ducts. We may combine ERCP with radiofrequency ablation (using intense heat to destroy tumor tissue and relieve symptoms) or to insert a stent in a blocked duct.
During this procedure, an interventional endoscopist inserts a stent into the duct to relieve the obstruction and allow drainage to proceed into the intestine, sparing the patient from having to wear an external bag on the abdomen to drain fluids. This approach improves quality of life and relieves jaundice, pain, and other symptoms.
Our doctors also perform "celiac plexus neurolysis" to relieve abdominal pain and insert stents in the duodenum of the small intestine to relieve obstructions.
Pancreatic cancer surgery
If we can remove your pancreatic cancer through surgery, you might have the Whipple procedure (removal of the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, the gallbladder, part of the stomach, and lymph nodes near the head of the pancreas). This complex surgery is best handled by a surgical team with extensive experience. NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist’s pancreatic surgeons are among the most experienced performing the Whipple approach. Our team includes a surgeon who can sometimes perform pancreatectomy (removal of the pancreas) and the Whipple procedure robotically — resulting in smaller incisions and a faster recovery — a service that is not available anywhere else in Brooklyn.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
In some patients, surgery is not possible because the pancreatic cancer has grown around vital structures, such as blood vessels. If your cancer is inoperable, you may benefit from chemotherapy (such as the drugs gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel) and radiation therapy. Some patients receive these treatments after surgery to delay or reduce the risk of cancer recurrence; in other cases, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can shrink an inoperable tumor enough to make it surgically removable. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are available in our modern and comfortable infusion and radiation treatment centers.
Preventing pancreatic cancer through cyst treatment
Some patients with pancreatic cysts may be at increased risk of pancreatic cancer. At NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital Cancer Center, our interventional endoscopists use radiofrequency ablation to treat pancreatic cysts, applying intense heat through a needle inserted through an endoscope to destroy the cyst. In some patients, this approach can prevent a precancerous cyst from progressing to pancreatic cancer, effectively preventing the disease.