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Ampullary Tumors

Ampullary tumors are a rare form of pancreatic cancer that develops in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, close to where the bile duct and pancreatic duct empty into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).

Because even the smallest tumors can block the bile ducts and cause symptoms, ampullary tumors are usually found earlier than most pancreatic cancers, so the outcomes for patients with ampullary tumors is better than those with pancreatic cancer.

How is it diagnosed?
How is it treated?
How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Frequenstly Asked Questions

How is it diagnosed?

Ampullary tumors are diagnosed much in the same way that pancreatic cancer is. Diagnostics include:

  • Physical exam by your physician
  • Lab analysis or blood, urine or stool samples
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan)-a diagnostic imaging procedure that combines multiple X-rays and computer technology to create cross-sectional images ("slices") of the pancreas, liver and surrounding organs, blood vessels and other tissues.
  • Ultrasound-uses sound waves to create a real-time image of organs.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)-provides a view into the stomach, pancreas and small intestine.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (endosonography)-an advanced procedure that combines endoscopy and ultrasound to create more detailed images of digestive tract structures, finding tumors less than 1 cm (about 0.4 inch), which can't be seen in a CT scan. Endoscopic ultrasound is the only tool currently used to effectively stage ampullary tumors.
  • Tissue biopsy-a small sample of tissue is taken and analyzed to confirm whether it is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). Detailed pathology testing can reveal important details about the cancer's molecular and cellular characteristics, and is a key step in staging a cancer (determining how advanced the cancer is).

How is it treated?

Surgery is the most effective treatment for ampullary tumors. The Whipple procedure, a standard surgical operation for treating pancreatic cancer, is traditionally performed. The procedure involves surgically removing the "head" portion of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, some lymph nodes, the gallbladder and a part of the stomach.  A modified Whipple procedure preserves the stomach to minimize digestive problems. 

For more advanced ampullary tumors, radiation therapy also may be recommended to shrink tumors and relieve pain.  Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be administered from outside the body using a linear accelerator, or from inside the body by tiny radioactive seeds or rods that are implanted right into the tumor or affected organ. 

How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?

Advocate Christ Medical Center is one of the few hospitals in Illinois with experience in diagnosing and treating ampullary tumors.  Physicians here are skilled at using minimally invasive endoscopic techniques to remove ampullary tumors, without major open surgery. 

Christ Medical Center also is one of few medical centers in the region with diagnostic endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) capabilities to stage ampullary tumors.  Accurate staging provides information on the cancer's status, which is critical for effective treatment planning. 

Patients at Advocated Christ Medical Center benefit from the collaboration of many specialists who have expertise in a broad range of areas yet all dedicated to providing the best solutions to diagnose and treat cancers of the digestive system.  Gastroenterologists, GI surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, hepatologists, oncology nurses and others work collaboratively to consider all perspectives and potentialities before recommending a treatment plan tailored to each individual's situation.

With the most advanced technologies and experienced cancer specialists, Advocate Christ Medical Center offers the resources to address complex cancer cases.  Christ Medical Center draws patients who seek new options after previously receiving care at larger academic hospitals.

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