Living with cancer blog

Experts, patients provide updates at pancreatic cancer conference

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. November 10, 2012

About 200 people attended the pancreatic cancer conference at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on Nov 3. It was inspiring to meet the 50 cancer survivors and their friends and family who attended. In honor of the conference and of pancreatic awareness, Mayo Clinic was lit up in purple lights for the day.

I thought I'd update you on what we learned from the Mayo Clinic experts and patients who presented at the conference. Here are a few highlights:

  • Pancreatic cancer can be treated more effectively if it is detected early. New ways to screen for pancreatic cancer through imaging and other methods are being developed. Watch this Mayo Clinic video:
  • Islet cell (neuroendocrine) pancreatic cancer is rare and can respond to targeted therapies.
  • Nutritional strategies are important for pancreatic cancer patients — many people experience side effects such as diabetes, impaired digestion and vitamin/mineral absorption problems because of the cancer or treatment.
  • Researchers are discovering new oncogenes or gene mutations with pancreatic cancer that may help develop new targeted treatments.
  • New early phase clinical trials for the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer are available — call the clinical trials referral office at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center at 507-538-7623 or visit
  • Cancer protective strategies that have been found for pancreatic cancer include taking low-dose aspirin and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Fatigue, insomnia and pain are the most common side effects of pancreatic cancer. Strategies to address these include mind-body therapies, exercise and acupuncture.
  • Support and advocacy are vital to pancreatic cancer patients and their families — look for resources and support from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) at
  • For information and education related to pancreatic cancer, visit Mayo Clinic online resources at


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Nov. 10, 2012