Pancreatic cancer care in Denver, CO

In concert with the Sarah Cannon Institute at Swedish Medical Center, Swedish is home to the Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas. This program brings together a team of experts dedicated to treating pancreatic cancer and other pancreatic conditions, such as ascites, pancreatitis and portal hypertension.

One of the Rocky Mountain region’s best pancreatic care centers, the Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for certification in pancreatic cancer care, establishing our dedication to the national standards for quality health care.

While we are proud of our certifications and accreditations, we are most proud of our impressive patient outcomes. Our team has been shown to catch certain cancers at earlier stages than the state average, including cancers of the pancreas, liver, intrahepatic bile duct, extrahepatic bile duct, gallbladder and other parts of the biliary tract. In addition, our entire oncology program is honored to share that our survival data continues to be better than the state average.

Risk factors and symptoms

We consider each patient’s symptoms, risk factors and testing results in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Common symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood clots
  • Enlargement of the gallbladder or liver
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

There are some risk factors of pancreatic cancer that can be controlled or mediated, including smoking, diet, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity. Risk factors that patients can’t control include age, race, family history and inherited genetic syndromes that can cause pancreatic cancer.

Early screening and diagnosis

We use several different methods to reach a liver cancer diagnosis, including diagnostic imaging tests and minimally invasive exams. These can include:

  • Angiogram
  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • Laparoscopy
  • Medical history and physical exam
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Pancreatic cancer treatment and support

Diseases of the pancreas represent some of the most difficult and challenging problems faced by healthcare professionals today.

The Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas at Swedish offers a multi-faceted approach to surgical and non-surgical treatment for patients with complex pancreatic, biliary and liver diseases, including liver cancer. We also provide complete care for each patient’s entire cancer journey, from diagnosis through recovery and survivorship.

Our pancreatic experts are skilled in cutting-edge treatment options for pancreatic cancer, including surgical treatment, radiation oncology and chemotherapy treatment. Additional pancreatic cancer treatments we provide include:

Arterial embolization

This medical technique is used to target tumors more directly from the inside of the pancreas. Embolization is a well-established interventional radiology technique that is performed by injecting a safe substance into the body to decrease blood flow to cancer cells in the pancreas. This is done with the intention that the decreased blood flow will kill the cancerous cells.

Whipple procedure

The Whipple procedure, also known as pancreatoduodenectomy, is often used to treat cancer contained to the pancreas. In the Whipple procedure, a specialized physician removes the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, gallbladder and part of the stomach. After, the surgeon connects the remaining intestine, bile duct, pancreas and stomach so the body can continue to digest food and expel waste.

Irreversible electroporation

An advanced treatment option, minimally invasive irreversible electroporation surgery is performed to destroy cancerous tumors without the need for high heat or extreme cold. By not using extreme temperatures during treatment, no harm will be done to surrounding critical bodily structures.

Guided by computed tomography or ultrasound imaging, irreversible electroporation is performed by placing two or more fine-needle electrodes around the tumor. The electrodes deliver a series of high-voltage, low-energy direct currents to create nano-sized defects in the cell membrane, leading to cancer cell death.

Patients benefit from this treatment by typically having less pain and scarring as well as a shorter recovery time. This procedure gives an alternative option for patients who are not good candidates for open surgery. In addition to treating pancreatic cancer, irreversible electroporation can also be used to treat cancers of the liver, colon and bile ducts.

Distal Pancreatectomy

A distal pancreatectomy is performed if a tumor is located within the body or tail portion of the pancreas. The surgeon removes half of the pancreas where the tumor is located, preserving the head of the pancreas and as much healthy tissue as possible. Sometimes the spleen is also removed during this procedure because it is located so close to the tail of the pancreas. A distal pancreatectomy can be performed laparoscopically or with open incisions.

For more information about Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas at Swedish Medical Center, call (303) 788-3478.

Interdisciplinary team working together for you

While advanced technology is critical to providing expert cancer treatment, there are many components of the individualized treatment plans at Swedish. Our patients benefit from an entire team of experts weighing in on their care plans. Each case is brought to an interdisciplinary case conference during which experts from many different care departments provide perspective on treatment and progress. At the Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas, our team of specialists come from many different areas, including:

  • Gastroenterology/Hepatology: Board-certified gastroenterologists offer advanced endoscopic techniques.
  • Interventional Radiology: Interventional Radiologists use minimally invasive image guided techniques to treat tumors or obstructions.
  • Surgery: General surgeons are fellowship trained in advanced surgical techniques involving gastrointestinal surgery. Surgeons specialize in the operative removal of tumors of the liver, pancreas, stomach, gallbladder, kidney or other parts of the GI tract.
  • Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology: Medical oncologists administer specialized chemo-therapeutic treatment plans. Radiation oncologists deliver external and internal beam radiation therapy to referred patients, both inpatient and outpatient.

Patient navigation

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. That’s why we have created a patient navigator program to streamline patient care and provide a single point of contact for patient and family needs. Specially trained oncology nurse navigators can help you access services during treatment and recovery. Our navigators craft medical survivorship plans for each patient. The plan includes the resources, remission instructions, warning symptoms, follow-up appointments, screening schedules and treatment dates for each patient’s journey through survivorship.

Cancer support

Our Cancer Resource Center offers information and assistance to patients and their l oved ones. Any patient can call the Cancer Resource Center at (303) 788-2627 to speak with our nurses, dietitians and volunteers about resources and support services for cancer patients.

Patients are welcome to attend our free support group and educational classes that are held regularly. They can also speak with our specially trained staff about scheduling a meeting with Swedish health professionals.

About Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute

Swedish Medical Center is part of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare. Our family of hospitals provides comprehensive cancer services with convenient access to cutting-edge therapies for people facing cancer in our communities. From diagnosis, to treatment and survivorship care, our oncology expertise ensures you have access to locally-trusted care with the support of a globally-recognized network.

askSARAH helpline

Have cancer questions? We can help. askSARAH is a dedicated helpline for your cancer-related questions. Our specially-trained nurses are available 24/7 and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (303) 253-3225 or chat online at askSARAHnow.com.