Pancreatic cancer is increasing at a distressing rate. Why this disease now ranks fourth among most common cancers affecting both sexes is yet to be discovered. But because pancreatic cancer survival rates improve dramatically with high levels of treatment expertise and experience, there is hope for Oklahomans.
"Right now we are the only facility in Oklahoma equipped with the most advanced technology to produce the most accurate, rapid, safe and least-invasive diagnoses for our patients," says the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center Surgeon Russell Postier, MD. "And while technology definitely plays a role in our ability to diagnose and manage pancreatic cancer, the single most important factor in successful outcomes and patient care is the level of knowledge and experience possessed by the people using the technology."
Available statistics on pancreatic cancer care indicate facilities such as the Stephenson Cancer Center, where high volumes of pancreatic cancer patients are treated, outperform lower volume facilities. In fact, surgery survival rates top 97 percent at Oklahoma's only comprehensive academic cancer center versus 85 percent or less at low-volume facilities. Furthermore, pancreatic cancer cure rates at OU Medicine range between 25 percent and 40 percent, which is significantly higher than other facilities.
In a single year, Dr. Postier performs the complex, highly-successful pancreatic surgery known as the Whipple procedure at a rate 10 times greater than most surgeons perform in their entire career.
But success extends beyond the surgeon, Dr. Postier says.
"Because we are an academic medical facility with every specialist needed to optimize cancer treatments, we are constantly finding new ways of keeping people healthy," Dr. Postier says. "We meet on a weekly basis with every specialist in the room to manage each and every situation. It's like each patient is seeing 10 doctors at one time."
In terms of preventing pancreatic cancer, not much is known. People who smoke should quit, Dr. Postier says, and the only other known risk factor ties directly to age. People over age 60, with an alarming increase in those being diagnosed under 50, are most at risk.
"While not much is currently known about how to prevent pancreatic cancer, one thing is certain," Dr. Postier says. "If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, seek out a cancer treatment center with the highest levels of treatment expertise and experience. Odds of survival improve dramatically when you do."
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