WHAT IS PANCREATIC CANCER
The pancreas is a gland that produces hormones, such as insulin, as well as proteins called enzymes that help the body digest food. It measures about six inches long and is shaped somewhat like a tadpole, with the “head” (on the right side) wider than the “tail.” The pancreas extends across the abdomen, behind the stomach, and in front of the spine.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms:
Because there currently is no recommended routine screening to detect pancreatic cancer, it is often found after an abnormal blood test or a routine imaging test. Symptoms may be vague, as there are no specific symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
The list below includes possible signs of pancreatic cancer, but these also could be an indication of many other medical conditions. Consult with your doctor if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
Risk Factors: What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?
Normally, the cells in our body grow and divide to make new cells as old cells die. When abnormal genetic mutations occur, the exocrine or endocrine cells in the pancreas can become cancer cells. These cells make new ones that are not needed and do not die quickly when old or injured. As this overgrowth of cancer cells continues over time, it forms a mass called a tumor.
In most cases of cancer, researchers haven’t yet identified the exact reason behind the abnormal cell division process. However, chronic inflammation can lead to pancreatic cancer development, and the chances of developing pancreatic cancer may increase with the following risk factors:
If your doctor suspects pancreatic cancer, he or she may have you undergo one or more of the following tests:
Imaging tests that create pictures of your internal organs. These tests help your doctors visualize your internal organs, including the pancreas. Techniques used to diagnose pancreatic cancer include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and, sometimes, positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Using a scope to create ultrasound pictures of your pancreas. An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) uses an ultrasound device to make images of your pancreas from inside your abdomen. The device is passed through a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) down your esophagus and into your stomach in order to obtain the images.
Removing a tissue sample for testing (biopsy). A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope. Most often the tissue is collected during EUS (Endoscopic Ultrasound) by passing special tools through the endoscope. Less often, a sample of tissue is collected from the pancreas by inserting a needle through your skin and into your pancreas (fine-needle aspiration).
Blood test. Your doctor may test your blood for specific proteins (tumor markers) shed by pancreatic cancer cells. One tumor marker test used in pancreatic cancer is called CA19-9. It may be helpful in understanding how the cancer responds to treatment. But the test isn't always reliable because some people with pancreatic cancer don't have elevated CA19-9 levels, making the test less helpful.
If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, he or she tries to determine the extent (stage) of the cancer. Using information from staging tests, your doctor assigns your pancreatic cancer a stage, which helps determine what treatments are most likely to benefit you.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the stage and location of the cancer as well as on your overall health and personal preferences. For most people, the first goal of pancreatic cancer treatment is to eliminate the cancer, when possible. When that isn't an option, the focus may be on improving your quality of life and limiting the cancer from growing or causing more harm.
Treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of these. When pancreatic cancer is advanced and these treatments aren't likely to offer a benefit, your doctor will focus on symptom relief (palliative care) to keep you as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.
Clinical trials are studies to test new treatments, such as systemic therapy, and new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy. If the treatment being studied proves to be safer and more effective than current treatments, it can become the new standard of care.
Clinical trials for pancreatic cancer might give you a chance to try new targeted therapy, chemotherapy drugs, immunotherapy treatments or vaccines.
Talk to your doctor about what clinical trials might be appropriate for you.
Extensive research shows pancreatic cancer surgery tends to cause fewer complications when done by highly experienced surgeons at centers that do many of these operations. Don't hesitate to ask about your surgeon's and hospital's experience with pancreatic cancer surgery. If you have any doubts, get a second opinion.
Copyright © 2017 Lehigh Valley Sole Sistas - All Rights Reserved.