Stanford's New Benign Pancreas Program Shines Light On Pancreatic Diseases

Author: Stanford Health Care

I'm Mitzi Moynihan and I live in Menlo Park. I had for years what I thought, was acid reflux and had gone to Urgent Care a couple of times and that's what they said it was. Then I started having more attacks, and finally, went to the Emergency Room one night when I had a serious attack. And, that led to a gall bladder surgery. And they had found something on my pancreas at that time.

My doctor at Palo Alto Clinic recommended Dr.Visser at Stanford. Mrs. Moynihan underwent a complete evaluation and based on the combination of the CAT scan imaging and the result of the endoscopic ultrasound, that it was very likely a mucinous tumor. Most don't become cancer, some do. But after discussing the various options she opted for surgery.

I had done research, and I felt very comfortable with Dr. Visser and, I said, "Okay, let's do it now." The pancreas has two principle functions. It makes hormones. The principle one being insulin. So, the pancreas allows glucose control. Also the pancreas makes digestive juices, which are the enzymes that allow us to digest all the things we consume. In some patients, the pancreas, will become chronically inflamed and slowly scar down and will lose its function, and also can cause a lot of chronic pain.

Pancreas surgery has been more prone than other gastrointestinal organs, to post-operative complications. The key to minimizing the pain and suffering of pancreas surgery is reducing the rate of complications. So, she underwent what's called a laparoscopic spleen preserving distal pancreatectomy. Laparoscopy, is the technology that allows us to do surgery with small incisions. It's the same operation inside, but with smaller incisions means a shorter recovery.

Stanford's New Benign Pancreas Program Shines Light On Pancreatic Diseases

I was really surprised at how quickly I recovered. Everything went so smoothly. And I think just the world of Dr. Visser and this procedure, which not many doctors do all over the country. The Benign Pancreas Program is really an effort to give more attention to the under recognized pancreatic diseases.

Patients don't always get all the care that they should, or deserve to get. The patients who have quote unquote benign pancreatic diseases can have slow debilitating loss of pancreatic function and also often suffer from a great deal of pain. And so the Benign Pancreas Clinic is an attempt to bring those patients into a setting where they can see a variety of specialists in one setting who can really attack their problem from a variety of angles. It's a very frustrating disease.

My suspicion is that there are a lot of people who suffer from pancreatic diseases who are out there who have not been provided a comprehensive prospective of the options available to them. So, we've been trying to leverage some of the resources here at Stanford, specifically our strengths in the laboratory sciences to identify novel ways to develop new tests in the cyst fluid to help us predict which cysts are at high risk for developing into cancer. Since the surgery, I've been absolutely fine. I went back to Filoli where I'm a guided tour docent, and now, I really, really appreciate the gardens and just the beauty of it all.

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