The best pancreatic cancer doctors are those who see many pancreatic cancer patients each year

Editor’s note: You may have seen the recent “U.S. News & World Report Best Cancer Hospitals” rankings. Because pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, there are specific things patients should look for in a healthcare team and treatment center. We explore those here.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer – especially a particularly difficult kind like pancreatic cancer – they often look for “the best.”

The best treatment. The best doctor. The best hospital. The best chance.

When it comes to pancreatic cancer, the “best” healthcare team is:

  • Experienced in diagnosing and treating pancreatic cancer, seeing many patients with this type of cancer every year (specialists)
  • Multidisciplinary, ideally consisting of members with expertise in radiology, gastroenterology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, pathology, supportive care and nutrition

And if you are considering or getting surgery, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) recommends seeing a surgeon who performs more than 15 pancreatic surgeries per year to determine your eligibility and to perform the surgery.

If you have a rare form of pancreatic cancer (any type other than pancreatic adenocarcinoma), it is also important to see a doctor who has experience treating your specific type of cancer, if possible.

When trying to find the best doctors and center for you, it is important to consider finances and insurance coverage, whether you are able to travel, what type of pancreatic cancer you have, what your treatment goals are and what you are looking for in a healthcare team.

PanCAN keeps a list of pancreatic cancer specialists and high-volume centers throughout the country. Contact our Patient Services for specialists that meet your needs, such as expertise and geography.

Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, and its treatment requires specialized knowledge and experience. While local hospitals can offer quality care, large academic cancer centers may be more likely to have doctors who are up to date on pancreatic cancer treatments and research.

These centers are also more likely to offer more clinical trials, a multidisciplinary team and support services than smaller, local hospitals.

It’s important to remember that every patient is different, has different needs and responds to treatment differently.

Precision medicine – treatment based on a person’s or their tumor’s biology – may help find the treatment that is best for you. PanCAN’s Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service can help eligible patients access tumor biomarker testing and genetic testing to tell you about your biology and inform treatment decisions, regardless of where you are being treated. Contact PanCAN’s Patient Services for more information about precision medicine and Know Your Tumor.

When considering a doctor, ask:

  • How many people with pancreatic cancer do you care for each year?
  • What experience do you have with a diagnosis like mine?
  • Do you work with a multidisciplinary team? Who are they, and what are their specialties?
  • Do you use tumor biomarker testing and genetic testing to help inform treatment decisions?

Remember that your healthcare team is made up of more than just your doctor, and all roles are critical. For example, PanCAN recommends patients see a registered dietitian who has experience working with cancer patients. This person may be a part of your doctor’s or institution’s care team, or they may be found outside of it.

No matter what, be sure to ask any current or prospective healthcare team members questions. It’s important that you feel comfortable and supported by your healthcare team.

During the coronavirus pandemic, you may have additional challenges finding a doctor. Hospitals and institutions all have different policies right now. If the doctor or institution you are working with or want to see is not providing what you need, contact Patient Services. Our team can help you figure out other options, including helping you find another specialist or treatment center if needed.

And right now, advocating for yourself is more critical than ever. PanCAN is always here to support you in that endeavor and with anything else you may need.

Contact a PanCAN Patient Services Case Manager
Contact PanCAN Patient Services for a list of pancreatic cancer specialists and high-volume centers as well as information about pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment.