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Glossary of Terms

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There are currently 35 names in this directory beginning with the letter P.
Paclitaxel (Abraxane)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it inhibits cell division and promotes cell death. It is often given with gemcitabine. (See also Nab-paclitaxel.)
Palliative care
Healthcare that specializes in the relief of suffering and improvement in quality of life.
Palliative surgery
Any noncurative surgical procedure that may be used in patients with pancreatic cancer to help relieve symptoms such as jaundice, nausea, vomiting, and pain to improve quality of life.
Pancreas
An organ of the digestive system located deep in the abdomen that produces both pancreatic enzymes to aid in the digestion of food and hormones such as insulin.
Pancreatectomy
A surgical procedure in which part or all of the pancreas is removed.
Pancreatic cancer
A malignant tumor of the pancreas. There are two main types: adenocarcinoma, which makes up the vast majority of cases, and neuroendocrine cancer, which is the remaining 5 percent of cases.
Pancreatic cyst
Saclike pouches of fluid within the pancreas. Most do not cause symptoms and are not cancerous, but some can become malignant.
Pancreatic duct
Main duct that runs along the entire length of the pancreas and merges with the bile duct.
Pancreatic enzymes
Proteins produced by the pancreas to aid in the digestion of food.
Pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN)
Lesions too small to see with the naked eye that can progress to invasive pancreatic cancer over time.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET)
This type of pancreatic tumor develops from the abnormal growth of endocrine (hormone-producing) cells in the pancreas called islet cells. PNETs grow more slowly and may have a higher survival rate. Not all types of PNETs are cancerous.
Pancreaticoduodenectomy
Surgical procedure in patients with pancreatic cancer that removes part of the stomach, the duodenum, the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and lymph nodes in the area of the pancreas (See Whipple procedure.)
Pancreatitis
Inflammation of the pancreas.
Pancreatoduodenectomy
Removal of the head of the pancreas and parts of other nearby organs. Also called a Whipple procedure.
Pathologist
A physician trained to examine cells under a microscope for the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases.
Pathology report
A document with information about cells and tissue removed from the body and examined with a microscope for disease.
Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA)
Method of pain relief, commonly used after surgery in the immediate postoperative period, in which the patient controls the amount of pain medication by pressing a button on a computerized pump connected to a small tube in the body; patients cannot use more than the prescribed amount because the device is programmed for a maximum dosage.
Peritoneum
Membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers most of the abdominal organs.
Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)
Genetic disorder in which polyps form in the intestine and dark spots appear on the mouth and fingers, and that increases the risk of developing many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.
Phases of clinical trials
Sequential steps of clinical trials designed to answer specific questions and build on information from the previous phase. Phase 1: Determines the side effects of a new drug by gradually increasing the dosage and analyzing patients’ responses. Phase 2: Determines if the new drug has the potential to be better than current treatments. Phase 3: Determines if the treatment is better than, as good as, or not as good as the accepted standard treatment.
Photon beam radiation therapy
Uses X-ray beams to get to the tumor but also can damage healthy tissue around the tumor. Also known as external beam radiation therapy.
Physician assistant
Trained professional who has completed an accredited program and is board-certified to perform certain duties of a physician, under the supervision of a licensed physician; some duties include history-taking, physical examination, and minor surgical procedures.
Placebo
A substance that has no active ingredient.
Port
A device that is surgically installed to create an opening into the body.
Portal vein (hepatic portal vein)
Carries blood to the liver from the spleen, stomach, pancreas, and intestines.
Positron emission tomography (PET scan)
Imaging test in which a small amount of radioactive glucose is injected into a vein, a camera detects the radioactivity, and a computer generates detailed images; because cancer cells absorb much more glucose than normal cells, images created by a PET scan can be used to find cancer cells in the pancreas and other parts of the body.
Power of attorney
Legal document that appoints a person to make financial decisions for the patient when the patient cannot.
Prognosis
The expected pattern and outcome of a disease based on tests.
Progression
The growth or spread of cancer after being tested or treated.
Protein
A molecule made up of amino acids needed for the body to function properly; proteins are the basis of body structures such as the skin and hair, and of substances such as enzymes.
Protocol
A detailed plan of a medical study, treatment, or procedure.
Proton beam radiation therapy
Treatment with radiation that uses a stream of positively charged particles that can be focused to reach only the targeted area.
Proven therapy
A conventional, traditional, or standard treatment that has been tested and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Pylorus
A thick ring of muscle (a sphincter) between the stomach and duodenum. This sphincter helps control the release of the stomach contents into the small intestine.
Pylorus-preserving Whipple procedure
Surgical procedure in patients with pancreatic cancer that removes most of the duodenum, the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and lymph nodes in the area of the pancreas; in this procedure, the stomach is spared.
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