Digestive Disorders / Gastroenterology Expert Forum
Mass in the pancreas
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Mass in the pancreas

Doctor,

My question is about my father.  He is a 57 year old and in very good health.  Over the last 2 months he has had abdominal pain that radiates to the back.  He has been to his family physician and they prescribe many GI products.  Since then, he has had a upper GI, lower GI, bloodwork, CT scan, which they have found nothing abnormal.  Just the other day they performed an MRI to be sure.  We just heard from the Gastro doctor that they found a 3 cm x 2 cm mass on the tail of the pancreas.  The doctor said that they are concerned and he immediately referred my father to a surgeon.  We don't know if it is benign or malignant or if it has spread.  The MRI showed no other mass and the lymphnodes showed nothing.  My question is does a mass always have to be cancerous and if not what else could it be.  They have already told my dad that they will definitely go in and remove the mass regardless.  First they are going to do laparascopy to see what it is and if it has spread.  Could you tell me what the prognosis is or what we may be dealing with?  I have asked some of my doctor friends and they said that if it is in the tail, it could have been there for 10-15 years and that it doesn't sound good.  I want to hear the reality but I also am staying very positive.  If it is benign could it be removed with no further problems.  If it is malignant, we know it would be removed but what else should we prepare ourselves for?  
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Can't say whether it is benign or malignant without going in and sending the lesion to pathology.  Other things it could be other than cancer would be a pancreatic pseudocyst or a retention cyst, each which would be less threateninc than a tumor.  However, the MRI should have been able to provide more clarity.  

Regarding prognosis, it would depend on what is found.  If the mass is indeed cancer, the 5-year survival rate following surgery is 25-30 percent for cancers that did not spread to the lymph nodes, and 10 percent for cancers that did spread to the nodes.  

Again, survival rates would have to depend on the size of the mass, what it is, and how far it has spread.

Followup with your personal physician is essential.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Kevin, M.D.
Medical Weblog:
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Dear Hope,
Sorry for your Dad's situation.  Has your Dad lost any weight yet?  Weight loss and the discomfort are classic symptoms of a pancreatic mass.  You are doing exactly the right thing by doing research.  I like this site and it gives good information.  However, lots of things can run through your mind at a time like this especially when anticipating a biopsy.  Perhaps the mass is benign. However, if it is not, please know that there are different types of malignant growths.  For example, iselt cell carcinoma is very slow growing.  Many patients live with those for a long time.  Because the doctor said it may have been there a long time, maybe it is this type.  The faster growing and more vicious type is adenocarcinoma. I am providing a link to you for the Johns Hopkins PC Discussion Board:  
http://162.129.103.56/N/n.web?EP=N&URL=/MCGI/SEND1^WEBUTLTY(199,8)/43905366 which is a very strong support group with many people (patients and caregivers) to help you and your Dad through this process.  What you may read on the Internet is scary, but take it one day at a time.  If the growth has not spread, then your Dad may be having a surgery called the Whipple procedure.  It is a long and difficult surgery and provides the greatest chance for a cure.  If the growth has spread, there are chemotherapy combinations and radiation that may shrink a growth to possibly qualify for the Whipple procedure.  There are some amazing stories of survivors on the Johns Hopkin's PC Discussion Board.  I'm wishing you and your Dad the BEST of luck.  Do check out the board.  there is sooo much information and friends there.
Good luck and God bless you!
Gallbladderbaby
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I've had this 'abdominal pain that radiates to the back' for 2 years.  Had blood test, cat scan, upper GI but doctors can't find anything.  One doctor recently gave me Nexium.  I don't know if it's the medicine, I havn't had problem (only minor abdominal bloating) for 6 months.  GI doctor recommend MRI.  But since I don't have pain, I declined. Should I still get MRI done?
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If insurance will pay it, go for it!  pPace of mind is soo worth it!  Good luck and God bless you!
Gallbladderbaby
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