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When cancer cells reproduce, they can potentially invade healthy tissues that surround the original tumor. This is known as metastatic cancer. It’s important to remember, though, that metastatic cancer is always classified as the original type of cancer – no matter where else in the body it spreads. For instance, pancreatic cancer that spreads to the liver is not considered to be liver cancer; instead, it is known as metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Metastatic pancreatic cancer usually spreads to one or more organs and tissues located near the pancreas, such as the:

  • Liver
  • Portal vein (the vein that carries blood from the liver to other digestive organs)
  • Celiac plexus (a small bundle of nerves in the abdomen)
  • Ligament of Treitz (a thin muscle that wraps around the small intestine)
  • Lymph nodes

If cancerous cells make their way to the lymphatic system, they can then spread to other, more distant parts of the body.

How is metastatic pancreatic cancer treated?

The treatment options for metastatic pancreatic cancer depend primarily on where the cancer has spread. If it has only spread to tissues around the pancreas, surgery may be an option. However, if it has spread more extensively, systemic treatments such as chemotherapy may be recommended.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we provide every patient with an individualized treatment plan. Our oncologists evaluate the location, stage, size and cellular makeup of each tumor, among other factors, to determine which treatments are most appropriate. For complex cases, our weekly tumor board comes together to consider the best possible options. As a result, we are consistently able to help our patients achieve favorable outcomes and a high quality of life.

Medically reviewed by James Costello, MD, PhD

If you’d like to learn more about our treatment options for metastatic pancreatic cancer, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online to request an appointment. You do not need to submit a physician’s referral with your appointment request.