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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 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
Endocrine tumors (also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors or islet cell tumors)
Noncancerous (benign) pancreas conditions we treat include:
Neuroendocrine tumors (noncancerous)
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:
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy
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)
Pancreatic duct drainage
Pancreatic head resection (Whipple procedure)
Pancreatic tail resection
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.
Meet our patients
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.
Recent news about the Pancreas Cancer Prevention Clinic
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.
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.
Other programs and services
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.
Where to find us
Patient support resources
Learn more, help spread the word
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.