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Pancreatic Cancer: Home

What Is Pancreatic Cancer?

The body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells grow, divide, and produce more cells as needed to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. Sometimes, however, the process goes wrong and cells become abnormal, forming more cells in an uncontrolled way. These extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor. Tumors can be benign, which means not cancerous, or malignant, which means cancerous.

The pancreas is a gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine. It produces the juices that help break down food and the hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer usually begins in the cells that produce the juices. Some risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include

  • Smoking
  • Long-term diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Certain hereditary disorders

Pancreatic cancer is hard to catch early. It doesn't cause symptoms right away. When you do get symptoms, they are often vague or you may not notice them. They include yellowing of the skin and eyes, pain in the abdomen and back, weight loss and fatigue. Also, because the pancreas is hidden behind other organs, health care providers cannot see or feel the tumors during routine exams. Doctors use a physical exam, blood tests, imaging tests, and a biopsy to diagnose it.

Because it is often found late and it spreads quickly, pancreatic cancer can be hard to treat. Possible treatments include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Source: MedlinePlus - Pancreatic Cancer
Image source: Blausen.com staff. "Blausen gallery 2014". Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762

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Although most cancer is not inherited, approximately 5 – 10% of people with cancer have a hereditary form or a predisposition to cancer. Hereditary cancers occur because of a change (mutation) in certain genes. Inheriting these genetic mutations can increase a person’s risk for certain types of cancer. 

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The Whipple Procedure, also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is the most common surgery to treat pancreatic cancer. In this procedure, the head of the pancreas is removed along with a part of the small intestine, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and adjacent lymph nodes.

Supportive Care Programs at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center

The Elly Nadel Music Therapy Program provides music therapy services and support to cancer patients, family members and loved ones in a way that meets physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs in a one-on-one or group setting. Activities include listening to music, using instruments, improvisation, songwriting, singing and more.

For more information including a schedule of upcoming classes, see the Cancer Center Calendar or call (805) 879-5654. 

The Ridley-Tree Cancer Center has one of the largest Genetic Counseling departments in California. We offer hereditary cancer risk counseling to help patients and families with a history of cancer better understand and manage the risk of developing cancer through genetic risk assessment and genetic testing.Our Genetic Counselors translate complex genetic information into understandable recommendations for patients, physicians, and families. 

For more information, visit the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center website or call (805) 879-5653.

The Oncology Dietitian Nutritionists at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center provide evidence-based recommendations that are proven by scientific research and clinical experience. Education and support are provided to help prevent treatment delays and decrease side effects from treatment. Once treatment for cancer is complete, our nutrition experts can recommend personalized food choices that will support treatment outcomes, enhance the quality of life, and decrease the risk of disease recurrence. Monthly seminars provide an opportunity to discuss the most recent research related to cancer, foods and your lifestyle. Services are offered free-of-charge to individuals currently in treatment or within one year of their last treatment.

For more information, visit the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center website or call (805) 879-5652. 

The Ridley-Tree Cancer Center provides Patient Navigation services in order to assist patients on the journey to live with, through, and beyond cancer. Navigators serve as a liaison between individual patients and the various healthcare providers required for proper diagnosis, treatment, and disease management.

Navigators offer coordination of care throughout a cancer patient's experience, by:

  • Explaining medical procedures and providing cancer information
  • Ensuring medical appointments are scheduled and kept
  • Coordinating and streamlining insurance information
  • Identifying local resources and appropriate support
  • Enhancing communication between care providers

Navigation is available per physician referral and is offered free-of-charge. For more information, contact the Patient Navigation department at (805) 879-0660 or navigator@ridleytreecc.org.

At the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s Resource Library, we aim to empower anyone touched by cancer with the knowledge they need to become well-informed partners in their healthcare. The Resource Library offers a comfortable place where patients and families can find current, comprehensive information about all aspects of cancer. Services include research assistance, a lending library and online information guides. The Resource Library is open to all and services are offered at no charge.

For more information, visit the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center website or contact the Resource Library at (805) 879-5648 or library@ridleytreecc.org.

Visit Us:
540 W Pueblo St
Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 4:30pm

Cancer can involve significant psychological, social, and economic challenges for patients and their families. How and if these challenges are addressed is an important aspect of a patient’s care plan. The Ridley-Tree Cancer Center employs clinical social workers who provide emotional and practical support for patients, their families, and their friends. Oncology Social Workers can provide advocacy and referrals as well as individual and family counseling services.

Services are available at no cost and are available to anyone in our community, regardless of where they are receiving medical care. 

For more information, visit the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center website or call (805) 879-5690.  

A wide range of wellness activities, classes and programs are available to our patients and their caregivers. Programs include yoga, exercise programs, painting, flower arranging, meditation and more. Upcoming dates can be found on the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center online calendar.

Programs offered free-of-charge. For more information including who qualifies for Ridley-Tree Cancer Center Wellness Programs & Classes and class descriptions, visit the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center website or call (805) 879-5678. 

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Books at the Cancer Resource Library

Support Group

Tools for Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

This group provides a safe place for those who are newly diagnosed with cancer to share and learn coping skills for the cancer journey. The group will discuss common issues that affect most people when they are initially diagnosed, such as shock, sharing the diagnosis or not, regaining control, dealing with a new self-image, living with uncertainty, and more.

Schedule: 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, 540 W. Pueblo St., Multipurpose Room, 2nd Floor
For more information, see the Cancer Center calendar.

Resources provided by the Cancer Resource Library are for informational purposes only. The information in these materials may or may not apply to your specific condition, and should not be construed as medical advice. We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider to review anything you learn through these resources.

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center provides comprehensive cancer treatment and support programs for patients and families. We are recognized for medical excellence, a strong clinical research program, and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention.

Cancer Resource Library | 540 West Pueblo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | (805) 563-5807 | library@ridleytreecc.org | www.ridleytreecc.org