Pancreatic cancer surgeon: Individualized treatment makes the difference

At MD Anderson, we not only practice medicine of the textbook – we are the people who write these textbooks. This is why it is so important for people with pancreatic cancer to come to a place like MD Anderson for treatment.

Because the best chance anyone has to beat cancer is their first chance. And MD Anderson doctors really amazing things.

Earlier pancreatic cancer diagnosis makes a difference

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose early. Symptoms include jaundice, weight loss, fatigue and abdominal pain. But all these can be signs of other diseases as well.

The good news is that we have better imaging techniques now than before. And we actively develop blood tests to detect pancreatic cancer earlier. It can lead to more successful treatment, because the sooner we catch the cancer, the more opportunities we have to deal with it – and the more chance we have to cure it.

Advances in pancreatic cancer treatment

Pancreatic cancer has historically been resistant to standard treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But we have stronger treatments today than we did before, and we have a better understanding of when these treatments should be used to their greatest effect. On their own, these therapies prolong patients’ lives and improve their quality of life. But in combination with surgery, these treatments can also result in a cure.

Surgery is often considered difficult or impossible with pancreatic cancer, because it means to be surrounded by so many important blood vessels. MD Anderson surgeons routinely remove and reroute ships critical blood to allow removal of tumors that can be unremovable hold.

Through clinical studies, the MD Anderson doctors also investigating new chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and immune combinations, administered before and after surgery, which can make our operations more efficient.

Patients do best when they are treated by a surgeon who makes 20 or more pancreatic cancer procedures per year. MD Anderson surgeons do 50 to 100. These are just some of the reasons why our business tends to be so successful.

Data and individuality mean more effective pancreatic cancer treatment

Data is everything for us here at MD Anderson. But the data we use to generate treatment plans for our patients are not only limited to the results of certain lab tests. We do not treat patients with a playbook.

Our doctors develop individualized treatment plans specific to each patient exactly the type and stage of the disease, but also consider their goals, lifestyle, access to health care in the home, financial situation, availability of health care providers, and other factors. We look at the whole person. Because individualized care is the key to good results.

As a result, we now treat and cure cancer of the pancreas often considered untreatable or incurable. Our patients with pancreatic cancer live much longer now than they did 20 years ago. So there is plenty of hope.

And that’s why I’m here. That is why we are all here.

Matthew H.G. Katz, M.D., is chief of pancreatic surgery at MD Anderson.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-855-851-1607.

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