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What to know about pancreatic cancer

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What to know about pancreatic cancer explains symptoms, causes, diagnoses, treatment, risk factors, prevention, and your chances of survival. It also answers four major frequently asked questions about pancreatic cancers which give hope.

what to know about pancreatic cancer

So what is pancreatic cancer?  Pancreatic cancer happens when cancerous cells grow, divide, and spread in the pancreas. The pancreas has two major functions in your body. The first is to make enzymes that break down food.  The second is to make hormones, including insulin, that control your body’s use of sugars and starches.

Symptoms

In the early stages of pancreatic cancer, you won’t have symptoms. However, pain develops in the upper abdomen and spreads to the back as the cancer grows and spreads. The pain may worsen after you eat or lie down. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, lack of appetite, weight loss, jaundice, nausea, and depression.

Causes

The precise cause of pancreatic is not known, though certain gene mutations can cause it. Risk factors include smoking, age (diagnosed in people older than 45), diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, and liver cirrhosis. Other risk factors include family history of the condition, gender (more common in men than women), obesity, certain chemicals, and race (African Americans have a slightly higher risk than whites).

Diagnosis

what to know about pancreatic cancer

Because it’s difficult to find the disease in its early stages, you may need to get imaging tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan. The green area shown in this CT scan appears to be cancer in the pancreas and liver. For a diagnosis, you’ll get a biopsy, in which your doctor uses a needle or does an operation to take a bit of tissue from the tumor for testing.

Treatment

what to know about pancreatic cancer

Surgery

Surgery to remove the tumor can cure the cancer if it hasn’t spread past the pancreas. Unfortunately, with pancreatic cancer, the cancerous cells usually have spread past the pancreas by the time of diagnosis. A different type of surgery may be done if the tumor is too large to remove. Therefore the goal is to help ease the symptoms and stop some problems linked to huge cancerous masses.

Radiation therapy

what to know about pancreatic cancer

For pancreatic cancer, you’d likely receive radiation therapy to kill cancer cells 5 days a week for several weeks. Radiation therapy can help relieve pain or digestive problems caused by large tumors. Furthermore, radiation is being studied as a way to kill cancer cells that remain in the area after surgery.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells and stop them from growing or multiplying. This may involve one drug or a combination of drugs taken by mouth or by injection. And because the drugs enter the bloodstream, chemotherapy remains a good choice for cancer that has spread. Chemotherapy may also be given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Targeted therapy

what to know about pancreatic cancer

Targeted therapies seem to have fewer side effects than chemotherapy and are less harmful to normal cells. This is because targeted therapy only attacks specific parts of the cancer cells. For instance, doctors can use a targeted therapy called Tarceva along with chemo to treat advanced pancreatic cancer. However, there are side effects such as rash, diarrhea, appetite loss, and fatigue.

Immunotherapy

what to know about pancreatic cancer

This type of treatment uses your immune system to fight disease. For instance, doctors can use Keytruda to block a protein called PD-1 to help the immune system attack the cancer. But side effects are fatigue, skin problems, joint pain, and gut problems such as nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. Besides, more serious side effects can happen if the immune system starts to attack the body itself.

Palliative care

This is when therapy is used to ease symptoms and manage pain in any stage of the disease. This can be applied along with other medical treatments since the goal here is to improve the quality of body, mind, and spirit. Although palliative therapies are suitable last stages of the disease, they can also help along with other treatments that target the cancer.

4 most FQA about pancreatic cancer

what to know about pancreatic cancer

What to know about pancreatic cancer is not complete without answering the four most frequently asked questions about pancreatic cancer. These are presented below:

Is there a direct correlation between breast cancer and pancreatic cancer?

what to know about pancreatic cancer

Yes, there is a relationship between BRCA mutations (breast and ovarian cancer) and pancreatic cancer. A BRCA mutation approximately doubles the lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Around 5 percent of people with pancreatic cancer have a BRCA mutation. However, breast cancer is very common, so not all patients with breast cancer are thought to have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Is it possible to have a full recovery from pancreatic cancer?

Yes, it is possible to have a full recovery from pancreatic cancer.

Can you live without a pancreas?

Yes, you can live without a pancreas, but you will be diabetic, which means you will have to take insulin regularly. You will also need to take enzyme pills to help with the digestion of food.

Can pancreatic cancer be prevented?

A: Unfortunately, most pancreatic cancer cannot be prevented, but you can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, stopping smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake. Other risk factors include genetics, poor diet, environmental factors, chronic pancreatitis, and family history. So identifying and addressing risk factors through policy and programs and behavior changes can reduce the risk of developing cancer. For instance, national policies and programs should be implemented to:

  • Raise awareness
  • Reduce exposure to cancer risk factors
  • Provide information and support for healthy lifestyles

Survival rate

what to know about pancreatic cancer

Finally, what to know about pancreatic cancer is your chances of survival. Because doctors rarely find pancreatic cancer in its early stages when it’s easiest to treat, it’s one of the most deadly cancers. About 12% of people with pancreatic cancer live at least 5 years after diagnosis. But the 5-year survival rate is much better by 34% if it hasn’t spread past the pancreas. And at this point what comes to mind is Steve Jobs’ incredible fight against pancreatic cancer. Still, be aware that survival rates can’t predict what will happen to you and equally may not reflect newer types of treatment.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/cancer-prevention/art-20044816

Abiola is the founder of Indulge™ group of companies, a healthy-living focused group. A passionate believer in a healthy lifestyle, living in the United Kingdom made it easy for her to pursue a health and fitness regime. She is the Managing Director/CEO of Indulge Nigeria Limited and Indulge Cares Nigeria Limited, both companies promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for the prevention of illnesses and diseases. Abiola is available on https://www.indulgeinhealthyliving.com/

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