If you have symptoms that suggest pancreatic cancer, your GP will usually arrange the first tests. If you need further tests, you will be referred to a specialist, who will make a diagnosis and advise you about treatment options.
Because pancreatic cancer is a challenging cancer to treat, it is important to see a multidisciplinary team (MDT) in a hospital or treatment centre that regularly treats this disease.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer is highly specialised, so you may need to travel for treatment. This is especially the case with surgery for early pancreatic cancer. There is strong evidence that outcomes are better with an experienced surgeon who performs the operation several times a year.
Specialised treatment centres that see a lot of people with pancreatic cancer are also associated with better outcomes. Seeing a multidisciplinary team at these centres allows you to access a wide range of treatment options. To find a specialised pancreatic centre, talk to your GP or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
The following health professionals may be in your MDT:
- pancreatic or HPB (hepatopancreato-biliary) surgeon – specialises in surgery to the liver, pancreas and surrounding organs
- gastroenterologist – specialises in diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive system, including pancreatic cancer and blocked bile ducts
- medical oncologist – prescribes and coordinates chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted drug therapies
- radiation oncologist – prescribes and coordinates radiation therapy
- endocrinologist – diagnoses, treats and manages hormonal disorders, including diabetes
- nuclear medicine specialist – coordinates the delivery of radioactive treatment and scans
- interventional radiologist – analyses x-rays and scans, may do biopsy under ultrasound or CT, and delivers some treatments
- cancer care coordinator/clinical nurse consultant/clinical nurse specialist – coordinates your care, liaises with other members of the MDT, and supports you and your family throughout treatment
- nurses – administer drugs and provide care, information and support throughout your treatment
- palliative care team – specialise in pain and symptom control to maximise wellbeing and improve quality of life
- dietitian – supports and educates patients about eating and managing weight changes and digestive/bowel problems
- social worker – links you to support services and helps you with emotional, practical or financial issues
- psychologist, counsellor – use counselling to help you manage your emotional response to diagnosis and treatment
- physiotherapist – helps with restoring movement and mobility and preventing further injury, and can tailor an exercise program for you
- exercise physiologist – assists people with medical conditions to exercise and improve their overall health, fitness, strength and energy levels
- occupational therapist – assists in adapting your living and working environment to help you resume your usual activities