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Pancreatic Cancer Program

Our Program

Our Pancreatic and Biliary Cancer Program offers the latest medical and surgical treatments and access to clinical trials for patients with tumors of the pancreas and surrounding organs like the bile duct, liver and gallbladder. Our collaborative, multidisciplinary team of experts in gastroenterology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and radiology evaluates each patient's unique condition and will discuss a customized treatment plan with the patient and family with the hope of achieving the best possible outcome.

Our program is based at Ridley-Tree Cancer Center for outpatient care and at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for inpatient care.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer impacts the digestive system and starts when cells in the pancreas grow without the normal controls. These cancers are typically divided into two subtypes:

  • Exocrine tumors are by far the most common type of pancreatic cancer and about 95% of them are adenocarcinomas. These cancers begin in the ducts of the pancreas and interfere with normal digestion.
  • Endocrine tumors develop in the hormone-producing, or endocrine, cells of the pancreas. These are far less common and can have a more favorable prognosis.

Biliary Cancer

These relatively rare cancers involve the gall bladder or the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the intestines. They are located very close to the pancreas and are often treated like pancreatic cancer. However, we’ve learned more about these cancer in the last several years and now see several genetic distinctions from cancer of the pancreas and use targeted therapies for them.


Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early. When symptoms appear, they can be vague and hard to notice as they could also be caused by other problems that are more common than pancreatic cancer. Some people notice the following symptoms as pancreatic cancer evolves:

  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Pain developing in upper abdomen and back
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestive problems including changes in bowel habits, pain after eating, or bloating


For some cancers, routine screenings help to detect the disease early. For people who have an average risk of pancreatic cancer, there is currently no routine screening test recommended to detect pancreatic cancer. Screening is recommended for anyone with a high risk, including those ages 40 or older with two or more first-degree relatives with pancreatic cancer along with having inherited genes that increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Screening is also offered to those with three or more family members with pancreatic cancer, even without a documented genetic alteration.


In addition to completing a comprehensive physical examination and lab work, our physicians may utilize any of the following diagnostic procedures to identify pancreatic and biliary cancers:

Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis

CT Scan
Endoscopic Ultrasound
PET Scan
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

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Treatment for patient with pancreatic or biliary cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Radiation Therapy
Clinical Trials
Palliative Care

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