Overview

A comprehensive team ready to help you

Diseases of the pancreas are complex and often serious. At UW Health, we have the tools and expertise to treat them.

Pancreas Cancer Program

Pancreatic cancer is scary. We want to do everything possible to prevent it in high risk patients and treat it with the most advanced techniques and technology available. That’s the driving force behind our Pancreas Cancer Program.

Our Pancreas Cancer Program is made up of two distinct clinics. One that focuses on cancer prevention services in high-risk patients, and the other that focuses on providing multi-modal therapy and support for patients that have pancreas masses or cancer.

Conditions

Conditions we treat

Many conditions — both cancerous and noncancerous — can affect your pancreas.

Your pancreas is a vital organ. It makes enzymes that help with digestion. It also produces hormones, including insulin. You need insulin to turn glucose (sugar) into energy and to keep blood sugar in check.

Cancerous pancreas conditions we treat include:  

  • Bile duct cancer 

  • Exocrine tumors 

  • Endocrine tumors (also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors or islet cell tumors)

Noncancerous (benign) pancreas conditions we treat include: 

  • Acute pancreatitis 

  • Chronic pancreatitis 

  • Necrotizing pancreatitis 

  • Neuroendocrine tumors (noncancerous) 

  • Pancreas cysts

  • Pancreatic pseudocysts

Treatments and research

Treatment based on your condition and focused on your needs

Each person’s illness is different. Each person’s treatment is, too. Our team works with you to find the treatment that’s best for you.

If surgery is recommended, we are often able to use a minimally invasive technique. These procedures generally lead to shorter hospital stays and fewer complications than open surgeries.

Treatment for cancer of the pancreas 

Treatments for cancer of the pancreas include: 

  • Chemotherapy 

  • Radiation therapy

    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy

  • Surgery

    • Pancreatic head resection (Whipple procedure)

    • Pancreatic tail resection

    • Total pancreatectomy with auto-islet transplantation

Treatment for benign pancreas conditions 

Depending on your needs, treatment for noncancerous pancreas conditions may include: 

  • Gallbladder removal for gallstone-related pancreatitis (cholecystectomy) 

  • IV fluids 

  • Medication 

  • Pancreatic duct drainage 

  • Pseudocyst drainage 

  • Surgery

Pancreas cancer research

We provide patients with access to research studies that evaluate the latest, most promising approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of pancreas cancer. Ongoing research includes the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of pancreas cancer and unique targeting strategies to kill cancer cells before they grow and spread.

The identification of biomarkers that predict the progression of benign lesions like pancreas cysts is also an emphasis, enabling early detection for at-risk patients. All patients that are evaluated and consent to tissue and blood collection benefit from relevant, future research on promising drugs or therapies.

Learn more about clinical trials at UW Health

Programs and services

Specialized care for prevention and treatment

Centers, clinics and programs at UW Health provide unique care and services for people with pancreas conditions.

Some focus on prevention and early detection. That can be vital with pancreatic cancer because the disease is often found in later stages, when it tends to be more challenging to treat. Others focus on treatment.

Our counselors can help you if you have a strong family history of pancreas problems. They offer advice for you and your family on steps you can take to protect yourself.

Our integrative medicine team offers acupuncture, massage and a variety of other therapies. They focus on helping you achieve your best health in body, mind and spirit.

Dealing with a severe illness is never easy. You may have many doctor appointments and questions. Our nurse navigators are here to help. They serve as your primary contact and are a great source of information. They’ll help answer your questions and make sure you get where you need to be.

Our palliative care team works to address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients with serious medical issues and their families. They can help if you’re newly diagnosed or in active treatment. They also work with people nearing the end of life.

When you are at high risk of pancreatic cancer either because of a genetic predisposition or familial pancreas cancer (pancreas cancer in two or more close relatives), it’s important to have an experienced team behind you to find early warning signs before they turn into cancer. The Pancreatic Cancer Prevention team provides expertise unmatched in the United States. Combined with robust, ongoing research, the program looks for markers that could develop into pancreas cancer.

Using specialized imaging techniques, our team identifies and tracks the progress of pancreas cancer precursors, including pancreatic changes in patients with high-risk hereditary conditions for pancreas cancer, and mucin producing cysts that can develop into cancer and require regular monitoring. Early identification of key changes allows for intervention before cancer develops, much like a colonoscopy identifies intestinal polyps before they turn into colon cancer.

Learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Program

Our Pancreas Mass Clinic is for people with all types of tumors in their pancreas: adenocarcinoma, neuroendocrine tumors or metastatic tumors (tumors that have spread from other parts of the body). We also see patients with tumors that are not in the pancreas, such as ampullary or duodenal cancers that require the same therapy as pancreas masses in the head of the pancreas. Our team of specialists are trained in the most advanced methods of treating these types of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, minimizing complications and side effects.

Meet our patient: Sue Malone

When doctors discovered a tumor on Sue's pancreas, they referred her to UW Health for treatment. Learn about her experience

This center is Wisconsin’s only comprehensive cancer center. This designation comes from the National Cancer Institute. It speaks to the high level of care provided here. Experts in all facets of cancer care work together to help you as you face the disease.

Our pancreas transplant program is one of the most active, successful pancreas transplant programs in the world. Since the program began in 1982, our team has completed more than 1,850 pancreas transplants.

Related services

Other programs and services

To learn more about programs and services involved in caring for conditions of the pancreas, visit:

Meet our team

Expertise you can rely on

At UW Health, you’ll never be alone when you face pancreatic disease.

We have a team of doctors who ensure you get the best care possible. Among them are gastroenterologists, radiologists and cancer specialists. We also have nurses, genetic counselors, nutritionists and social workers. They work together to meet your needs.

Our providers

Locations

Where to find us

  • University Hospital - Hepatobiliary Pancreas Clinic
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-7502
    • Open now
    •  
      View hours, services and more
  • University Hospital - Pancreas Cancer Prevention Clinic
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-7502
    • Open now
    • When you are at high risk of pancreatic cancer either because of a genetic predisposition or familial pancreas cancer (pancreas cancer in two or more close relatives), it’s important to have an experienced team behind you to find early warning signs before they turn into cancer. The Pancreatic Cancer Prevention team provides expertise unmatched in the United States. Combined with robust, ongoing research, the program looks for markers that could develop into pancreas cancer. Using specialized imaging techniques, our team identifies and tracks the progress of pancreas cancer precursors, including pancreatic changes in patients with high-risk hereditary conditions for pancreas cancer, and mucin producing cysts that can develop into cancer and require regular monitoring. Early identification of key changes allows for intervention before cancer develops, much like a colonoscopy identifies intestinal polyps before they turn into colon cancer.

    •  
      View hours, services and more
  • University Hospital - Pancreas Mass Clinic
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-7502
    • Open now
    • Our Pancreas Mass Clinic is for people with all types of tumors in their pancreas: adenocarcinoma, neuroendocrine tumors or metastatic tumors (tumors that have spread from other parts of the body). We also see patients with tumors that are not in the pancreas, such as ampullary or duodenal cancers that require the same therapy as pancreas masses in the head of the pancreas. Our team of specialists are trained in the most advanced methods of treating these types of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, minimizing complications and side effects.

    •  
      View hours, services and more
  • University Hospital - Pancreas Transplant Clinic
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 262-5420
    • Open now
    •  
      View hours, services and more

Patient support resources

Learn more, help spread the word

Pancreatitis

To learn more about pancreatitis, visit:

Pancreatic cancer information

To learn more about pancreatic cancer, visit:

Pancreas cancer task force

The UW Carbone Cancer Center has formed a special pancreatic cancer task force. The goal is to raise awareness and money for improved diagnosis and treatment. Patients, family, friends and others can take part.