Know Your Specialists

To find the best care for pancreatic cancer, patients should seek out high-quality, high-volume cancer centers, hospitals, and doctors that have considerable experience in the field. Treatment for pancreatic cancer can be extremely complex, and while small local hospitals can provide quality care, sometimes their staff physicians may not possess significant experience treating cases of pancreatic cancer. For patients who live in rural areas, considerable travel may be required. If surgery is prescribed, patients should especially give strong consideration to a surgeon’s background.

Build Your Medical Care Team:

There are several tools patients may explore to find a doctor or hospital that specializes in the treatment of pancreatic cancer:

  • Contact the patient’s insurance company, and request a referral to an oncologist who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers.
  • Use the Doctor Finder feature on the American Medical Association (AMA) website.
  • Refer to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) list of Cancer Centers or the NCI fact-sheet: How to Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility.

Know Your Specialist:

Gastroenterologist: Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in the function and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the stomach, the intestines, the pancreas, and other associated organs. Patients often receive initial care from gastroenterologists when symptoms manifest. Gastroenterologists perform exams such as ERCP and EUS.

Medical Oncologist: Oncologists are doctors in internal medicine who specialize in cancer and cancer therapies (such as chemotherapy), and who manages the majority of complications that arise during the course of cancer treatment.

Nurse or Nurse Practitioner: Nurses assist in carrying out the treatment plan prescribed by the doctor.  Nurse practitioners have advanced training and education that allows them to perform physical exams, diagnose certain ailments, order tests and treatments, and prescribe medications.

Pain Specialist: Pain specialists work closely with oncologists to diagnose and treat pain. Pain medicine, as a broad term, encompasses anesthesiologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and specially trained psychiatrists.

: Pathologists are physicians who work in laboratories to identify diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. Their work is an integral part of accurately diagnosing cases of pancreatic cancer.

Psychiatrists & Psychologists: Psychiatrists are doctors who provide patients psychological counseling and, if necessary, can prescribe medication. Psychologists, by comparison, while also treating patients through therapy and counseling sessions, are not able to prescribe medications.

Radiologist: Radiologists are sub-specialist oncologists who help determine the course of radiation therapy a patient may use in the course of their treatment.

Registered Dietitian: Pancreatic cancer patients generally have to make significant changes to their diet during treatment, and especially following surgery.  Dietitians help guide patients to the types of food that will nourish them with the appropriate calories, vitamins, fats, and protein that their bodies now require. 

Surgeon: Surgeons are physicians with advanced training who treat patients by way of operations, which in the case of pancreatic cancer includes both the Whipple procedure and biliary bypass surgery.