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Tres Reyes Island view of the Marinduque Mainland

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Treatment and Cure for Pancreatic Cancer



The husband of my wife's second cousin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year. He had the whipple surgery and as of today, he seemed to be healthy and enjoying life. I have another friend who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last March. He lasted only for six weeks. This illustrates that survival from this dreadful disease could vary depending on the stage and location of the cancer.

Treatment will also depend on your overall health, age and personal preferences. Treatment and cure include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of the three. Here's an article about pancreatic cancer from the Mayo Clinic newsletter for your information and reading pleasure.

Pancreatic Cancer is very difficult to diagnose for the following reasons: 1. The pancreas is hidden behind the stomach and cancer cells are hard to detect. 2. Pancreatic cancer is a cancer of epithelial cells, which are both external skin cells and cells that cover internal organs. Cancers of epithelial cells are called “carcinomas” and more difficult to detect than other forms of cancer and 3. To diagnose pancreatic cancer, a tube must be inserted into the stomach to take a picture of the pancreas. With no symptoms, such an invasive procedure cannot be justified in routine preventive health care. By the time symptoms appear, it is usually too late for surgery or successful chemotherapy.

“ 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 preventing the pancreatic cancer from growing or causing more harm. When pancreatic cancer is advanced and treatments aren't likely to offer a benefit, your doctor will help to relieve symptoms and make you as comfortable as possible.”

Surgery may be an option if your pancreatic cancer is confined to the pancreas. Operations used in people with pancreatic cancer include: Surgery for tumors in the pancreatic head. If your pancreatic cancer is located in the head of the pancreas, you may consider an operation called a Whipple procedure (pancreatoduodenectomy).

The Whipple procedure involves removing the head of your pancreas, as well as a portion of your small intestine (duodenum), your gallbladder and part of your bile duct. Part of your stomach may be removed as well. Your surgeon reconnects the remaining parts of your pancreas, stomach and intestines to allow you to digest food.

Whipple surgery carries a risk of infection and bleeding. After the surgery, some people experience nausea and vomiting that can occur if the stomach has difficulty emptying (delayed gastric emptying). Expect a long recovery after a Whipple procedure. You'll spend several days in the hospital and then recover for several weeks at home.

Surgery for tumors in the pancreatic tail and body. Surgery to remove the tail of the pancreas or the tail and a small portion of the body is called distal pancreatectomy. Your surgeon may also remove your spleen. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding and infection.

Research shows pancreatic cancer surgery tends to cause fewer complications when done by experienced surgeons. Don't hesitate to ask about your surgeon's experience with pancreatic cancer surgery. If you have any doubts, get a second opinion.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to destroy cancer cells. You may receive radiation treatments before or after cancer surgery, often in combination with chemotherapy. Or, your doctor may recommend a combination of radiation and chemotherapy treatments when your cancer can't be treated surgically.

Radiation therapy usually comes from a machine that moves around you, directing radiation to specific points on your body (external beam radiation). In specialized medical centers, radiation therapy may be delivered during surgery (intra operative radiation).

Chemotherapy uses drugs to help kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be injected into a vein or taken orally. You may receive only one chemotherapy drug, or you may receive a combination of chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy can also be combined with radiation therapy (chemoradiation).

Chemoradiation is typically used to treat cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas, but only to nearby organs and not to distant regions of the body. This combination may also be used after surgery to reduce the risk that pancreatic cancer may recur. In people with advanced pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy may be used alone or it may be combined with targeted drug therapy.

Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells. The targeted drug erlotinib (Tarceva) blocks chemicals that signal cancer cells to grow and divide. Erlotinib is usually combined with chemotherapy for use in people with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Again, as in other types of cancer, survival will entirely depend on the early detection of this disease.

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