Oncology (General Cancer)/Could it Be Benign?


Several months ago, my husband lost an amazing amount of weight.  He is a heavy smoker and drinks gin & tonics from the time he gets home from work until he goes to bed.  I finally got him to go to the doctor.  The CT scan showed a 1cm x 1cm on the head of his pancreas.  He will be having a internal ultrasound next week.

1.  What are the chances that this is something that is benign?
2.  Does the fact that it lies on the head of the pancreas be wors than if it lied at the tail?
3.  Will he probably need the Whipple surgery?  Because of his smoking (and has a stent in one of his arteries), I am afraid he won't make it through the surgery or will die shortly thereafter.
4.  Since he waited several months to see the doctor, could the mass have spread to adjacent blood vessels.  How fast does pancreatic cancer spread?

Thank you for your time.  I am going crazy, while my husband seems to be taking everything in stride.

A mass on the pancreas could be a cyst, in which case it is benign; or it could be an adenoma or even a carcinoma.  An ultrasound and then a biopsy if indicated are the way to go.  If it is cancer, and there is no evidence that the disease has spread (sometimes a PET scan helps decide this) then a Whipple procedure would probably be the only thing that would offer a chance of cure.  Stents in the blood vessels don't mean you can't have surgery; that is a decision for the anesthesiologist to make.  If your husband is a heavy smoker and drinks that much, he probably has other serious medical problems like emphysema that might make surgery impossible.  If he has localized pancreatic cancer and can't undergo surgery, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cure a very few people.  Pancreatic cancer spreads rapidly.  If he's been having problems for several months and there is only a single lesion on the pancreas, I would bet that he doesn't have pancreatic cancer, as generally it is a rapidly progressive disease that leads to death within two or three months if untreated.  Hope this helps.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

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America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

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