Stanford, Calif. -

  Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease.  Only six-percent of patients will survive five years or longer.  Now doctors have found a way to help patients when their cancer spreads and other options are limited. 

As a self-esteem coach, Gwen McCane teaches others about confidence.   But Gwen had to follow some of her own advice and stay positive, when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Gwen had chemo and radiation, but her cancer spread to her liver. Then interventional radiologist Gloria Hwang told Gwen about a new therapy that could cook away her liver tumors.     "Someone actually takes a microwave antenna and sticks it at the end of a needle and sends out waves and allows tissue to cook" said Dr. Hwang.   

Using imaging to guide them, doctors insert tiny needles into the tumor. The microwave heat - which can reach 112 degrees, destroys the cancer in about ten minutes.   The treatment worked for Gwen. Her liver tumors are gone for now and she can focus on helping others feel as good as she does.  If Gwen's tumors come back, she can receive the ablation treatment again.  Patients stay overnight after the procedure.  

Dr. Hwang says nausea from the anesthesia is a common side effect.


BACKGROUND: Pancreatic cancer is one of the most active cancers in the body and is the leading death of cancer. Once diagnosed, a patient is not usually left with a lot of time to spare. This specific cancer is formed in the tissues of the pancreas and does not present signs or symptoms until late stages. In certain cases, tumors are formed in other organs that can help spread the cancer. Jaundice is a complication they can develop in the liver during the process of pancreatic cancer. This is defined as a development that deters the liver’s bile duct and may affect the appearance of your eyes, skin, urine and stool. (Source:


SYMPTOMS: Commonly, symptoms go unnoticed until the cancer has progressed, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood clots
  • Yellowing of the skin



TREATMENT: When it comes to cancer, we all have the same goal; remove it as quick as possible. In such case of pancreatic cancer, options tend to be limited given the short time doctors have. Doctors can prescribe medication to relieve symptoms, but that method can only go so far. It is safe to say that there is no way around surgery at that point and it is the doctor’s and patient’s goal to remove the tumor in an immediate manner. There are two surgical procedures that can be done to remove pancreatic cancer; in the head of the pancreas, which removes the head of the pancreas, or in the tail of the pancreas, which may also involve the removal of your spleen. (Source:


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The idea of “cooking” away tumors is a procedure that involves attaching a microwave antenna to the end of a needle. Doctors insert the needles into the tumor as it dispatches waves that allow the tissue to cook the tumor. Because of the heat distributed to the tumor, it wipes out the cancer in minutes. This therapy has been very successful to patients and has rid them of cancerous tumors. (Source: Dr. Gloria Hwang)




Ashley Georgian

Senior Media Relations Manager

Stanford Hospital & Clinics