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Pancreatic Cancer Treatment on the Gulf Coast

The pancreas is a critical organ that helps the body digest food by producing enzymes that aid in breaking down the food and balancing blood sugar. Cancer of the pancreas can disrupt these functions and cause serious consequences for a patient if left untreated. Infirmary Cancer Care is equipped to treat both pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and endocrine tumors.

Symptoms & Risks

Pancreatic cancer occurs when DNA changes in the cells of the pancreas cause uncontrolled growth. The pancreas is made up of two different types of cells: exocrine and endocrine cells. Exocrine cells are responsible for the excretion of food digestion enzymes. Endocrine cells produce the gastrointestinal hormones that regulate blood sugar and run the digestive process. When cancer affects exocrine cells, it is called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. This is the most common type of pancreatic cancer making up around 95% of cases. When it affects the endocrine cells, it is called endocrine tumors.

Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare affecting only just over 50,000 people a year. The cancer is also an outlier in that there are no clear risk factors that make it more likely for an individual to develop this cancer. Another problem with the disease is that until the disease has metastasized, there are usually no symptoms. When symptoms do arise, they can include jaundice, belly or back pain, unexplained weight loss, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention.

Diagnosis & Staging

Since pancreatic cancer is so rare and often symptomless, testing for it is important before it becomes serious. Although there are no currently available screening tests for this type of cancer, your physician may be able to tell if you have pancreatic cancer through other means. The CA 19-9 blood test often is higher in patients with pancreatic cancer as with other cancers and may be an indicator for your physician that they should look more deeply. CT scans and endoscopic ultrasounds are useful to help the physician spot cancer. However, pancreatic cancer remains difficult to find and diagnose, even when symptoms are occurring.

Pancreatic cancer is staged like many other cancers on a scale from 0-4. However, pancreatic cancer also has a resection scale based on whether it is possible to surgically remove a tumor. Resectable cancers show that surgery is possible, borderline resectable cancer occurs when surgery may be possible, unresectable cancer occurs when it is not possible to surgically remove cancer.

Treatment Options

Even though it is a very rare cancer that is hard to diagnose, there are quite a few treatment options for pancreatic cancer. The most common include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

Surgery, most successful when the cancer is caught at an early stage, seeks to strategically remove cancer while leaving the rest of the organ as unaffected as is possible. A pancreaticoduodenectomy is often performed to remove the cancerous part of the pancreas and surrounding cancer while in some situations a total pancreatectomy is used to completely remove the gallbladder and pancreas to remove the cancer.

Chemotherapy is most often used in pancreatic cancer to shrink the tumor so that it is more operable or as an after-surgery treatment that ensures the cancer is completely eradicated. While different for every person, chemotherapy’s side effects make it a less preferable option than just surgery in eradicating cancer. Discuss with your doctor the benefits and detriments of chemotherapy to your situation. Radiation may often also be used either by itself or in conjunction with chemotherapy to eradicate cancer.

Let Infirmary Cancer Care help you fight pancreatic cancer!

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