Pancreatic Cancer | Overview
Pancreatic cancer is a disease affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans. The pancreas is an organ which produces many vital hormones, including insulin and glucagon. It is heavily involved in the digestive process. The pancreas is located behind the lower half of the stomach. It is more common amongst African-Americans. Pancreatic cancer symptoms are also often common in those who suffer from obesity, diabetes, and pancreatitis. Smoking may also increase the chances of developing pancreatic cancer. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer often go unnoticed until the cancer is well-developed.
Pancreatic cancer symptoms often include:
- Blood clots
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes/skin)
Pancreatic Cancer | Genetics
Pancreatic cancer appears through a combination of genetic mutations. These mutations inactivate tumor suppressor and DNA repair genes. Pancreatic cancer typically manifests as a malignant tumor which spreads and progressively worsens. Cancerous cells infect and damage their immediate area. Over time, the cancer cells enter the circulatory system where they are transported throughout the body.
There are certain genetic mutations which may greatly increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These include cancer mutations inherited in the BRCA2 and PALB2 genes. Mutations in the STK11 and CDKN2A tumor suppressor genes may also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. A fraction of pancreatic cancer patients are related to someone displaying pancreatic cancer symptoms, meaning that a family history of the disease should be considered a valid risk factor.
Pancreatic Cancer | Treatment
Once diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, patients typically see an oncologist and a gastroenterologist to decide on how best to move forward. Throughout the process of cancer diagnosis, patients often undergo a series of tests including MRIs and CT scans. Biopsies are also often used to confirm the presence of pancreatic cancer. Blood tests may be used as well.
One of the fastest methods of sending pancreatic cancer into remission is via surgical removal. Unfortunately, this option is available in as few as 20% of cases. In many cases, however, chemotherapy is the most trusted treatment option for pancreatic cancer symptoms. It is widely known that chemotherapy, while effective, is no easy ordeal. It can cause hair loss, weakness, vomiting, and fatigue. Radiation therapy is often used as a supplemental treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer | Prognosis
The prognosis for someone battling pancreatic cancer is often very grim, as the cancer is often not detected until it is already well-developed. Pancreatic cancer is also very hard to treat effectively. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is believed to be lower than 20%.
Having a strong support network can make a world of difference not only to those with cancer but to their family and friends. A pancreatic cancer diagnosis can rock families and friendships to the core. The feeling of worry, pain and sadness can become overwhelming.
Give yourself peace-of-mind by finding the pancreatic cancer specialist that’s right for you. Request more information today. Call or contact us online.