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Pancreatic Conditions

At El Camino Health, our specialists in pancreatic conditions put their expertise to work for you in diagnosing and treating the common to the most complex diseases of the pancreas.

The pancreas is a six-inch-long organ that lies in the abdomen behind the stomach. Its main functions are to produce digestive juices and hormones. The pancreas makes insulin, which helps regulate sugar levels in the blood.

At El Camino Health, our digestive health specialists take the time to get to know you and thoroughly evaluate you. Our specialists are fellowship trained in digestive disorders, and many participate in clinical trials to give you better access to new treatments. They have the most advanced technology at their disposal to diagnose you and create a treatment plan to effectively treat your symptoms.

From your first visit, our digestive health team and doctors will welcome you warmly and do their best to make you feel comfortable and at ease. An Oncology coordinator will coordinate your care, answer questions and schedule appointments for you.

The interventional endoscopists at El Camino Health work closely with an expert team of pathologists, interventional radiologists and pancreatic surgeons to help manage complex issues of the pancreas.

We provide you with the level of care you’d expect from an academic hospital and add the friendly, personalized feel of our community setting.

Pancreatic conditions we treat include:

Ampullary Polyps

The ampulla is the area where the pancreatic duct and bile duct join together to drain into the first part of the small intestine. An abnormal growth called a polyp can develop at this location. It can start out noncancerous but can turn into cancer. As it grows, an ampullary polyp can cause a blockage to the pancreatic duct and/or bile duct. Bile duct blockage, bacterial infection, pancreatitis or ampullary cancer can occur.

Your doctor can remove a polyp if it has not grown too large. He or she may use endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to guide special tools through an endoscope to remove the polyp and insert a stent (small, straw-like tube) that keeps the pancreatic duct open as the area is healing.

Pancreatic Cysts

Pancreatic cysts are pockets of fluid that form in or on the pancreas. Most are not cancerous, and many do not cause symptoms.

Many pancreatic cysts technically aren't cysts at all. Called pseudocysts, these noncancerous (benign) pockets of fluids are lined with scar or inflammatory tissue, not the type of cells found in true cysts.

Many cysts are benign, occurring as a result of an episode of pancreatitis. Others are initially benign but gradually enlarge and have a small risk of turning into cancer.

The most reliable way to distinguish between a benign and premalignant cyst is to perform a test called endoscopic ultrasound to examine the cyst and take a sample of fluid from it for testing. From the sample fluid, our doctors can determine the exact kind of cyst and what needs to be done.

At El Camino Health, we use newer techniques utilizing endoscopic ultrasound to ablate (remove with heat energy) or treat the abnormal cells lining the cysts.

Very often, cysts require periodic monitoring with imaging studies like CT, MRI scan or reevaluation with endoscopic ultrasound.

Pancreatic Cancer

More than 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year. Pancreatic cancer has few symptoms in its early stages, so it is typically found at a later stage when it is more challenging to treat. At El Camino Health, we take an aggressive approach to treating pancreatic cancer. The percentage of patients surviving five years or more beyond diagnosis is significantly higher at El Camino Health than the national standard.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which can occur as a single episode over a number of days (acute) or can be a chronic condition that lasts for years. It often causes sudden and severe abdominal pain. Up to 75 percent of all cases are caused by gallstones or alcohol use. The vast majority of people recover without any permanent damage to the pancreas.

Our doctors can use imaging studies such as CT or MRI to look for gallstone disease. We also have expertise with endoscopic ultrasound to look for blockage in the bile duct, drain cysts resulting from pancreatitis or treat other underlying reasons for the inflammation.

We are well known in Silicon Valley for our skill with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a non-surgical procedure we can use to remove gallstones in the bile duct.

Other treatments include hospitalization to give you intravenous nutrition and fluids while you fast from food and drink by mouth. This allows your pancreas time to rest and heal. Our doctors also prescribe medications for pain and infection.

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