Your doctor diagnosed pancreatic cancer and recommended that treatment begin immediately. What do you do?
First, remember that you should feel comfortable and supported by your healthcare team. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) strongly recommends seeking a healthcare team that suits your physical, mental and emotional needs.
Also, PanCAN Patient Services is available to help every step of the way. PanCAN’s highly trained and compassionate PanCAN Patient Services staff provide free, personalized information about the disease, including treatment options and support services. They can also find resources for any questions you have related to pancreatic cancer.
Below are do’s and don’ts to consider prior to and during treatment for pancreatic cancer.
- DO get a second opinion about the diagnosis and treatment plan. Every patient has the right to seek a second opinion and feel confident in the doctor who ultimately provides his or her care. Getting a second opinion is common, and it doesn’t mean that the first doctor’s assessment is wrong. It simply means the patient would like to confirm the diagnosis and treatment options before continuing with a course of action.
- DO see a specialist. Seeing physicians who diagnose and treat a high volume of pancreatic cancer patients improves outcomes. PanCAN strongly recommends you consult with pancreatic cancer specialists who have experience diagnosing and treating the disease.
- DO consult a high-volume surgeon, both to confirm eligibility and to perform the surgery. Pancreatic surgery – the most common is called a pancreaticoduodenectomy (also known as the Whipple procedure) – is complicated, so it’s important to find a surgeon at a hospital that performs a high volume, or large number, of them. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network defines high volume as a surgeon who performs more than 15 pancreatic surgeries per year.
- DON’T wait to consider clinical trials. Clinical trials are conducted to investigate and develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer. PanCAN highly recommends that all patients consider clinical trials when exploring treatment options.
- DO ask your doctor about molecular profiling and precision medicine. Every pancreatic tumor is different. PanCAN strongly recommends molecular profiling of your tumor to help determine the best treatment options.
- DO tell your doctor about symptoms and side effects, and ask about supportive (palliative) care and symptom management. Supportive care is focused on comfort, quality of life and a patient’s total well-being. It can be provided any time after diagnosis and should be provided throughout the pancreatic cancer journey – both during and after treatment.
- DO consult with a registered dietitian. Good nutritional care, including access to pancreatic enzymes, improves outcomes and is critical for quality of life. A registered dietitian can help manage side effects of treatment that affect the patient’s ability to eat well. Since every patient is different, a dietitian can work with patients to meet their individual dietary needs.
- DON’T take dietary supplements, herbs or vitamins without consulting with your healthcare team. This will ensure coordinated and safe care as well as help avoid negative interactions with ongoing medical treatment.
- DON’T walk this path alone – DON’T lose hope. Connect with someone who has been in your shoes and can offer support and hope. PanCAN’s Survivor and Caregiver Network is made up of volunteers nationwide who are available to communicate one-on-one with those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, their loved ones or anyone looking to connect with someone who has experienced pancreatic cancer. In addition, several support groups, in-person, online or by phone, are available.
- DO remember that you are your own best advocate. PanCAN strongly recommends that you discuss your treatment goals with your healthcare team and know all your options at every stage of your disease.