Our experts work as a team to support your physical and emotional needs. Your pancreatic cancer care team may include doctors and other health care professionals.
Your primary care provider guides your overall medical care. This is the first medical professional you should go to about any health concern.
Surgeons with special training can remove tumors from the pancreas.
Medical oncologists coordinate cancer care through the course of the disease. They also prescribe chemotherapy and other anti-cancer drugs, as well as pain medicine.
Radiation oncologists stop the growth of cancer cells with radiation therapy.
Radiologists use computed tomography (CT scan) positronic emission tomography (PET scan) and endoscopic ultrasound to find pancreatic cancer.
Pathologists work in the medical laboratory,where they examine cells, body fluids and tissue samples for traces of cancer.
Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat problems with the digestive system, which includes the pancreas. They can use endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography ERCP and endoscopic ultrasound to find tumors in the pancreas.
Cancer care coordinators meet with patients and their families to provide support and help them navigate the medical system. The same cancer care coordinator can support a patient from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up.
Genetic counselors address concerns about inheriting cancer.
Healing coaches offer support, information and referrals for complementary therapies. While bridging the worlds of mainstream and alternative medicine, they can help address concerns and feelings raised by pancreatic cancer.
You, your family and friends will have many questions even before you have met with anyone on your cancer care team.
Bringing family members or friends to appointments is often comforting. The additional set of ears can be helpful as well.
Writing down your questions before the appointment is the best way to make sure any issues are addressed. Be sure to leave space so you can write down the answers.
This list of basic questions may be a helpful start:
This video covers care coordination, one of the essential components of cancer care at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute.
Connie Fiebiger, RN, director of clinical programs, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute: The cancer care coordinator is a registered nurse who is experienced in cancer and understands the impact that that has on patients and their loved ones.
As you can imagine, a diagnosis of cancer is very overwhelming and anxiety provoking. And our health care system is very difficult to navigate at times. Cancer patients have a lot of questions that they are looking for answers to and just kind of wondering what do I do next. And so the cancer care coordinator can help them through that process.
Cancer care coordinators can assist the patient in making informed decisions about their treatment options.
The cancer care coordinator can help make connections to the different healthcare team members. So a patient may need to go to several different types of specialty physicians, it might be the medical oncologist, the surgeon, the radiation oncologist. And the care coordinator makes sure that the patient is getting to the right specialty physician in a timely manner.
Part of that process is to make sure that the patient is also getting tests and procedures done prior to those appointments so that they're not wasting the patient's time
The cancer care coordinator can help the patient get connected to cancer rehabilitation services through
Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, as well as more integrative therapies through the
Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.
We know that survivorship begins at diagnosis and we want to make sure that the patient is accessing those types of services and programs in a timely manner.
When we're caring for a cancer patient, were really caring for the whole family. So we like to include the patients loved one to make sure that the loved one also understands what's going on and can help to support them so that they can support the patient.
The patient may be having concerns around their financial situation. They may have questions around their sexuality. They may be dealing with some concerns about their own mortality. They may be losing their hair and the impact that that has on their body image as well as self-esteem. So the cancer care coordinator can assist the patient in helping them to get connected to the right individuals or services, not only within Allina Health but also within the community.
Our goal is that every cancer patient will have access to a cancer care coordinator. We are looking at having that cancer patient get connected at diagnosis. The most benefit that the care coordinator can add to that relationship with the patient is at the very beginning.
Pancreatic Cancer Program, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, medical director, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute; Jennifer Stanek, RN, BSN, manager, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute Clinic