Pancreatic Cancer Survivorship

About Pancreatic Cancer

At Penn Medicine, patients with pancreatic cancer receive their care from a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of gastrointestinal cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is cancer that develops within the pancreas, the gland about six inches long that is responsible for making hormones, including the enzymes responsible for the digestion of food and control of blood sugar.

Pancreatic cancer develops when cells within the pancreas begin to grow out of control. It may spread, or metastasize, to nearby lymph nodes and organs such as the liver and lungs.

The pancreas has three sections:

  • Head: Part of the pancreas adjacent to the small bowel and liver ducts
  • Body: Middle of the pancreas
  • Tail: End of the pancreas near the spleen

About 90 percent or more of pancreatic cancer develops in the head of the pancreas.

Penn Medicine's multidisciplinary approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment provides better outcomes and gives patients access to the most advanced treatment, surgical techniques and clinical trials.

Because navigating a new cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them simplify entry into Penn and make an appointment with the right physician.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more About Pancreatic Cancer

Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer

An accurate cancer diagnosis from trusted cancer specialists is the first step in getting personalized treatment options to treat pancreatic cancer.

Patients who choose Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, benefit from a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists including gastroenterologists, radiologists, pathologists and surgeons who work together to provide both a diagnosis and treatment plan individualized for each patient with pancreatic cancer.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine are highly experienced in using the most advanced techniques for diagnosing pancreatic cancer and are actively researching better and more precise ways to detect pancreatic cancer.

Because an accurate diagnosis is an important step in planning cancer treatment, it's important patients know that when they come to Penn Medicine, they are taking an important step in getting the best cancer treatment.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the right person. Penn Medicine's contact center has experienced cancer nurses available and ready to guide patients in finding the cancer specialist right for them.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN (7366).

Read more Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Treatments

Following the diagnosis and staging of pancreatic cancer, cancer specialists at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center develop a personalized treatment plan. Penn's treatment options for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Surgery
    • Whipple procedure
    • Pylorus-sparing Whipple
    • Total pancreatectomy
    • Distal pancreatectomy
    • Enucleation (for certain rare types of cancer)
  • Palliative surgery
    • Surgical biliary drainage
    • Endoscopic stent placement for bilary drainage
    • Endonsocoic stent placement for gastric outlet obstuction
    • Surgical gastrojejunostomy
  • Radiation therapy
    • Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy
    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Proton therapy
    • Volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT)
  • Chemotherapy and biologic therapies
    • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
  • Clinical trials
  • Other treatments
    • Integrative medicine and wellness
    • Palliative care
    • Penn Home Care and Hospice

Because navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment options can be difficult, patients who wish to connect with a cancer specialist at Penn Medicine can speak with a cancer nurse, who can help them make an appointment with the correct cancer specialist.

To connect with a cancer nurse at Penn Medicine, patients should call 800-789-PENN.

Read more Pancreatic Cancer Treatments

Pancreatic Cancer Survivorship

Survivorship programs at Penn Medicine are a distinct phase of pancreatic cancer care and are designed to help patients' transition from their cancer treatment routine to a post-cancer care lifestyle. There are more than 12 million cancer survivors living and thriving today as a result of advances in cancer treatment. However, cancer treatments can result in physical, emotional and financial complications long after the therapy is complete.


Personalized Survivorship Care

At the end of treatment, pancreatic cancer patients should schedule a survivorship visit with their oncologist and nurse practitioner. At this time, patients are provided with a summary of the treatment received as well as a plan for follow-up care.

Penn cancer providers work one-on-one with patients to develop survivorship care plans. Since every cancer is unique, the plans are tailored to the patients. 

The survivorship care plan includes information on:

  • Potential long-term or late side effects of cancer treatment, the symptoms and treatment.
  • Recommendations for cancer screening for disease recurrence or a new cancer.
  • Psychosocial effects, including concerns with relationships and sexuality.
  • Planning follow-up visits and surveillance.

Survivorship care plans encourage patients to review the information with their health care team and become active participants in their follow-up care.

Penn also offers pancreatic cancer patients a number of support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

Oncology Navigation Specialists

Every step of cancer treatment – from a cancer diagnosis, to surgery and treatment to forming a survivorship plan – comes with different needs and issues that should be addressed.

Oncology Navigation Specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center are available to make a patient’s experience as seamless as possible. As experts in navigating complex health care situations, patient support specialists serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source for advice, support and direction for patients and families. They can help in a variety of ways including; provide emotional support, identify resources, and ensure access to information, support services, educational programs and community resources.

Learn more about patient navigation specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Survivorship Programs at Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine’s Living Well After Cancer™ Program is a nationally recognized program that focuses on issues facing cancer survivors. In 2007, the Abramson Cancer Center was designated a LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence Network.  The Abramson Cancer Center is only one of eight LIVESTRONG centers in the United States, and is the only LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence in the Philadelphia region. The program focuses on survivorship, a distinct phase of care.

Prescription for Living: The Cancer Survivorship Program at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, provides patients with a summary of important information about specific cancer diagnoses and treatments, as well as follow-up information and steps to take towards recovery, supportive care and education to help patients adjust to their lives as cancer survivors.

Continued Support

Penn offers cancer patients support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

The Abramson Cancer Center and Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital at Pennsylvania Hospital provide materials and host a wide range of activities that provide education and support to address key areas of concern including survivorship for cancer patients and their loved ones.

Focus On: Gastrointestinal Cancers is a day-long conference for patients and their loved ones that addresses issues surrounding gastrointestinal cancers.


Kristi Elder

Kristi Elder lived cancer free for 12 years after treatments in her mid-20s for a rare cancer. While coming to Penn for routine follow-up, a staff member recognized that Kristi could benefit from our survivorship program. In Kristi's first visit with o

Stand Up to Cancer

Peter O'Dwyer, MD, professor of Hematology-Oncology and program director of Development Therapeutics in the Abramson Cancer Center, was interviewed on NBC10's 10! Show about Penn's work as part of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team... Read more

Clinical Trials

Pancreatic Cancer Trials

A Phase I/II/Pharmacodynamic Study of Hydroxychloroquine in Combination With Gemcitabine/Abraxane to... more