Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Published on

Loading the player...

Pancreatic cancer can be a terrifying diagnosis, and often it’s preceded by vague symptoms. However, there are advances being made in diagnosis and in surgical approaches that can make a big difference when it comes to treatment. In this episode of Patient Power sponsored by UCSF Medical Center, you’ll hear from Dr. Kimberly Kirkwood as she discuss the latest advances that are extending the lives of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Kirkwood is a Pancreatic Cancer Specialist and gastrointestinal surgeon at UCSF Medical Center.

Dr. Kirkwood begins by talking about tools used to diagnosis pancreatic cancer, such as blood tests, PET and CT scans, and other imaging devices. She then goes into a deeper discussion of increasing survival rates through early detection and treatment. Dr. Kirkwood speaks about treatments, including surgical techniques, like the whipple procedure, that are showing promise. She also talks about the team approach to treatment - partnering with other specialists in the community to treat patients and return them to their lifestyle post-recovery.

Dr. Kirkwood closes the discussion with optimism. She discusses UCSF as a research institution and the advances being made there that give her so much hope. To quote Dr. Kirkwood “I think the next ten years are going to be a new era for pancreatic cancer. We’ve learned a lot from the advances in breast cancer and colon cancer therapy in the last decade, and I think this will be the decade in which we apply that knowledge to pancreatic cancer. I expect that our cure rates will improve dramatically in the next decade.”

View more programs featuring

Produced in association with


Andrew Schorr:

Pancreatic cancer can be a terrifying diagnosis, and often it's preceded by just vague symptoms, but there are advances being made in diagnosis and in surgical approaches that can really make a difference. You'll hear from a leading pancreatic cancer surgical specialist from UCSF next on Patient Power.

Hello and welcome to Patient Power sponsored by UCSF Medical Center. This is where we connect you with a leading UCSF medical expert talking about significant health conditions, and one of the scariest diagnoses is pancreatic cancer, and unfortunately it is usually discovered late, but there are ways to diagnose it earlier, and that can make a huge difference. We'll hear about that as we continue our discussion now with Dr. Kimberly Kirkwood.

Dr. Kirkwood of course is a pancreatic cancer specialist. She's a gastrointestinal surgeon, and she's the Surgical Director of the Pancreas Cancer Center at UCSF Medical Center. She's also a Professor of Surgery at UCSF.

Dr. Kirkwood, let's talk about the vague symptoms. Unfortunately there are people who have some problems, and maybe you can help us understand what they are, and they don't seek care or it's not recognized, and if only it were it could have maybe saved their life. What are some of the symptoms that may be vague early on for pancreatic cancer?

Dr. Kirkwood:

So, Andrew, many patients will tell us that they've been having vague discomfort in their upper abdomen for some number of months. Oftentimes this was thought to be some dyspepsia or ulcer disease, and they were given an antacid, but the symptoms persisted and in fact were not improved by the antacid, which should be a clue to both the patient and the primary care doctor.

The other finding we almost always see is weight loss, and this will be a diet that has never worked in the past and all of sudden is really working great now, which should be a hint, or it will be unintentional weight loss that is unexplained. These two symptoms in our view should prompt an investigation for pancreatic cancer because weight loss almost always means something bad; and particularly in older patients who are not usually trying to lose weight, weight loss in our view should prompt an evaluation, which typically would include imaging.

Related Programs

Join Our Community Register For Events Read Our Latest Blog

Page last updated on