Pancreatic cancer is said to be one of the most dangerous and fatal types of cancers anyone can suffer. This is because the organ affected, the pancreas, is the one that produces insulin to regulate the body’s blood sugar levels. It also works together with the liver in the production of digestive chemicals and enzymes that will later be converted to energy. Proper metabolism will also be altered without the pancreas working properly. In the past, research regarding living and dealing with pancreatic cancer has not been given much of an emphasis. It was not until recently that the level of the disease level of fatality was realized that pancreatic cancer research started to work its butt off.
Like many other cancers, no symptoms will be manifested during the early stages of pancreatic cancer. This is one of the reasons why it can be very deadly. No symptoms also means a more difficult time in diagnosing and treating the cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms
But when signs and symptoms do eventually start to appear (which usually takes place when the cancer has gotten worse), here are the ones to anticipate:
- Abdominal pain surrounding the entire area including back and sides
- Loss of appetite
- Abrupt and unexplained weight loss over a period of months or one year
- Problems in digestion
- Generalized itching as a result of excessive bile production
The pancreas measure about 6 inches in length and looks like a pear lying on it side at the middle part of the abdomen. Pancreatic cancer is due to the abnormal and uncontrollable multiplication of unhealthy cells within the pancreas. The disease can strike in two different places First, it could be in the enzyme-producing cells that aid in proper digestion. Second, it can attack the cell ducts. None of them are diagnosed properly during the cancer’s early stages.
What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?
Factors that can further make one at risk for pancreatic cancer as follows. Predisposing factors include:
- Gender - the disease is more likely to affect men than women
- Race - the condition is said to be most common among African-Americans
On the other hand, below are the precipitating factors:
- Diabetes - due to poor glucose metabolism
- Unhealthy diet - lack of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
One of the factors that make pancreatic cancer extremely difficult to diagnose is its location. Aside from the very late onset of symptoms, the pancreas is usually neglected and overlooked. This is why the number of pancreatic cancer cases have slowly but surely been increasing, though it still does not occur as often as other cancers.
How Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Diagnosed?
Below are diagnostic exams performed to check for the presence of pancreatic cancer:
- Ultrasound of the abdomen
- Computed Tomography Scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Staging Test (to determine the extent of the cancer upon the confirmation of its presence)
Anatomically, the pancreas is located in the digestive system. This explains why this particular system is often the one that absorbs most of the complications suffered during pancreatic cancer. The said complications that occur are as follows:
- severe pain
- cancer cell metastasis to other neighboring organs
- generalized and persistent body itching
The treatment plan conducted will depend largely on what stage the cancer already is and the other neighboring organs the cancer may already have affected. If the cancer is detected early enough, management of the cancer would normally include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. The first thing usually done is surgery then it would often be followed by either or both chemotherapy and radiation to eradicate all the remaining cancer cells that might have been left behind. But when the cancer is caught during a very advanced and late stage, then psychological and spiritual therapies will be given more of an emphasis along with promoting several comfort measures.
Alternative form of therapy, such as the use of co-enzyme Q 10, has become increasingly popular among medical professionals. The results they have so far given have been found to be very promising.
Nutritionally, eating smaller but healthier meals with dietary supplements is also being recommended. It is also important to increase oral fluid intake to help flush out toxins inside the body. The patient will also be asked to observe a low fat diet if they are not currently putting it into practice.
Pancreatic Cancer Medications
Adrucil, Avastin, Becenun, Bicnu, Carmubris, Carmustin, Carmustine, Cytarabine, Epirubicin, Erlotinib, Erbitux, Filgrastim, Fulvestrant, Gliadel, Gemzar, Idarubicin, Nitrumon, Tarceva, Trexall, Ondansetron, Xeloda