Pancreatic Cancer gained the world’s attention from the diagnoses of several prominent figures, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who was diagnosed in 2003 and died in 2011. Several other prominent individuals including Hollywood actors, have been diagnosed with the disease; the lifetime risk of the disease though is 1 in 65.
Know Your Pancreas
In the human body the pancreas is a 6’ long spongy, tube-shaped organ located in the back of the abdomen and behind the stomach. It is the pancreas that secrets digestive juices (enzymes) that help the intestine break dowwwn food. It also produces the hormone called insulin that helps regulate the body’s sugars and starches.
Pancreatic cancer occurs when malignant (cancerous) cells start growing in the tissues of the Pancreas and then start spreading.
The Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is a ‘silent’ disease that does not show any signs in the early stages. But as it develops, cancer grows and spreads, causing pain in the upper abdomen region and sometimes at the back. The pain usually aggravates when a person eats or lies down. Other symptoms are jaundice, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and weakness.
Causes of Pancreatic Cancer
Still the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is not known but smoking is considered to be a main risk factor. Smokers are at two times more risk to get the disease than non-smokers. Another factor is age, the disease is seen to occur in people above 45 years.
Diabetes is yet another risk factor and it can also be a symptom of the disease. Other risks are cirrhosis of the liver and a family history of pancreatic cancer. High fat diet, obesity and lack of exercise are also equally vital as risk factors.
Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer
A doctor may not easily detect cancer since it cannot be seen or felt. To identify the cancer the best option is to subject the patient to imaging tests like ultrasound, MRI and CT scan. The diagnosis finally comes from a biopsy done on a tissue sample from the tumor.
What are the treatments?
Usually, surgery is the cure and it can help if cancer has not spread past the pancreas. The tumor is removed leaving as much of the healthy pancreas as possible. Generally by the time the disease is diagnosed, it would have spread beyond the pancreas and hence the challenge. Surgery is effective in lessening the symptoms and in preventing further problems related to the growth and size of cancer.
Radiation therapy is often adopted as a part of the treatment programme for pancreatic cancer. Radiation is given for five days of the week for several weeks or months. Radiation helps in limiting the growth of cancer cells and protect the healthy cells, it destroys left out cancer cells after surgery and it also helps relieve pain or digestive problems due to the massing of cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is given using certain medicines or a combination of medicines. It helps control cancer cells that have spread and also limits cell growth after surgery. It is administered orally or through injection.
This is the latest sort of treatment where the body’s immune system is boosted to fight cancer cell growth. Certain vaccines are also being tried to equip the body to fight cancer cells.
How to Prevent Pancreatic Cancer?
Avoiding the risk factor to the best of capability is a sure way to avoid the cancer. Quit smoking, avoid high-fat diets, eat more healthy food and weight control since obesity and diabetes are two main risk factors.