If you or someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, you may start asking yourself questions such as, what’s this cancer’s stage? Can surgery help to remove the tumor? What are most effective treatment methods? And the questions can be endless.
Well, to begin with, don’t attempt to handle diagnosis on your own. Visit a cancer care center in Texas to find more information about the disease, which may include support services and treatment options.
Here are vital things you should know about the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer:
1. Seeing pancreatic cancer physicians and other specialists who specialize in pancreatic cancer treatment for patients, may improve outcomes.
2. Know the cancer type you have. Depending on the cell type they originate from, pancreatic tumors can be neuroendocrine or exocrine. Each type of cancer acts differently and may show different responses to treatment.
3. Know stage of cancer, and its implication. The stage is critical as it helps oncologists to establish the right treatment option.
4. Ask about the eligibility for surgery. Around 30-50 percent of pancreatic cancer patients who qualify for surgery end up being told they don’t qualify. It’s recommended you consult a surgeon who performs many (over 15) pancreatic surgeries a year. If you’re eligible, surgery is the ideal option for long-term survival of the disease.
5. Understand that each pancreatic tumor is different so, you may need to undergo molecular profiling to help establish the best method of treatment.
6. Be acquainted with your treatment options as well as clinical trials. Patients who get involved in clinical research may have better outcomes.
7. Consider coming with someone else for medical appointments. The information provided by healthcare professionals following diagnosis can be too overwhelming. A family member or friend can be supportive and ensure all questions are responded to.
8. Have a support system of persons who can help in diverse ways. You’ll need support from caregivers, healthcare professionals, friends and family to manage your needs.
The pancreas is a vital organ in the body that helps in the regulation of sugar in the blood. When the pancreas develops cancer, it spreads to other parts of the body such as spleen, stomach, lungs, liver, and bowel, leading to stage 4 pancreatic cancer if no immediate medical action is taken.
Studies show nearly 53% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are already at stage 4. Cancer stages can be established once a patient has undergone surgery. The surgery establishes the extent of cancer, how much it has spread to other body organs, and the size of the tumor.
In the second and third stage, pancreatic cancer has spread to the blood vessels and the lymph nodes. Oncologists can use the size of the tumor to establish pancreatic cancer stage. All tumors below four centimeters are categorized under stage 1 pancreatic cancer. Tumor size increases depending on how far cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Note that stage 4 pancreatic cancer has no cure because it has spread to many organs in the body. At the final stage, one is put under intensive treatment to live healthily and help relieve severe pain.
Early detection of pancreatic cancer is helpful in establishing the treatment method to be applied by oncologists. Different methods can be used to treat stage 1 pancreatic cancer.
Therefore, it is advisable to seek early cancer screening. One should also take note of the possible signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer such as weight loss, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin, and pain in upper abdomen, to help them decide on when to seek medical attention.
The pancreas plays two major roles in the body: making juices that help in digestion and making hormones such as glucagon and insulin that help in the regulation of sugar levels. The exocrine pancreas cells make digestive juices, and it’s in these cells where 95% of all pancreatic cancers start. The American Cancer Society reports that pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers and approximately 7% of cancer deaths.
Here are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer:
- Jaundice: The skin and whites of the eyes turning yellow are the indicators of jaundice. The accumulation of bilirubin, a dark yellow-brown substance produced by the liver, is what causes jaundice. Usually, the liver produces biliburin as part of bile. And bile moves through the bile duct into the intestines to help in the breakdown of fats, and it finally exits the body via stool. Cancers that begin in the head of the pancreas are usually close to the bile duct. They press on the duct, resulting in jaundice.
- Dark urine: At times, the first thing to see when you have jaundice is dark urine. As the amount of bilirubin in blood rises, the urine turns to brown.
- Back or belly pain: Pain in the back or abdomen is a common pancreatic cancer sign. Cancers that begin in the tail or body of the pancreas can grow big and start to press on nearby organs where they cause pain. This cancer can also spread to those nerves close to the pancreas and cause back pain.
- Weight loss: People with pancreatic cancer may have no appetite, which may cause them to experience unintended weight loss.
- Nausea and vomiting: The cancer can press on the stomach’s far end and partly block it. This makes it hard for food to pass through. It can result in nausea, vomiting, and intense pain especially after eating.
Pancreatic cancer can spread to other tissues and organs as well. Therefore, the symptoms depend on which location the cancer is growing. If the cancer spreads to the lungs, for example, it may cause a cough or shortness of breath.
Surgery is often the best option that enhances the survival of pancreatic cancer patients. Data has revealed that most surgeons have had great success with patients, without many complications when administering surgery. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has strongly recommended that high volumes of pancreatic surgeons perform these surgeries every year.
Here are the primary facts about the pancreatic cancer surgery:
- Approximately 20% of patients with pancreatic cancer are qualified for surgery at diagnosis – The pancreas is located deeper into the body between other organs. Symptoms for pancreatic cancer are vague, making it impossible to diagnose the disease in its earlier stages. At times patients who qualify for surgery are turned away. It is strongly recommended that patients see specialized surgeons (those who perform pancreatic surgery at high volumes) for them to determine their eligibility for surgery.
- Pancreatic cancer patients can undergo different types of surgeries – The Whipple procedure is the most commonly used type of surgery. It is performed on patients with a tumor that is confined to the pancreas head. The other surgery options for pancreatic cancer patients include distal pancreatectomy or total pancreatectomy. These involve surgically removing part or all the pancreas respectively.
- Pancreatic surgery can be combined with other treatments – Patients with pancreatic cancer can also have radiation therapy, chemotherapy or any other treatment before their surgery. Neoadjuvant therapy is given before surgery while adjuvant therapy is what a patient receives after surgery.
- The surgically removed tissue can define future treatments – Tissues collected after surgery or from biopsies can be molecularly profiled. Genetic changes and protein presence will be identified alongside other actionable alterations to help predict the response of the patient to particular types of treatments.
- Surgery can also be palliative – Palliative procedures help to alleviate cancer symptoms such as pain, jaundice, nausea, and vomiting. Some of the palliative procedures commonly used are gastric bypass surgery, biliary bypass surgery, and duodenal stent insertion.
The tumor size and locale within the pancreas and other factors will determine the type of surgery a patient will undergo.
Pancreatic cancer is very aggressive and has a very poor prognosis. The disease lacks diagnostic symptoms at early stages and is resistant to treatment. Recent progress has enabled scientists to define the morphological and primary genetic changes, but it’s still not clear which factors trigger the occurrence of pancreatic cancer. Risk factors like genetic susceptibility,diet, fever, age, gender diabetes, race, chronic pancreatitis, and physical inactivity are well known.
Researchers reported thatteenagers who are obese are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer in their adulthood. The odds for pancreatic cancer can quadruple because of obesity. As weight increases, so does the risk and it also affects more men in high to normal weight ranges. In overall, obesity increases a person’s risk for pancreatic cancer. The new finding linking adolescence obesity with the disease can impact the risk. This, though does not prove that having excess weight can cause pancreatic cancer, it’s only the association of the two that exists.
According to the research:
- It was discovered that obesity was linked with almost four times higher risk for cancer in men. Among the women, the risk was slightly above four times higher. The researchers attributed to approximately 11% of pancreatic cancer cases to teenage obesity and overweight.
- They also reported that weight gain in teenagers could increase inflammation which damages body cells and increases cancer risk.
- Studies are underway to determine whether the inflammatory process in obese cases isconnected with the inflammatory process in the malignancy. It remains a delicately balanced phenomenon for the researchers. The mechanism behind the inflammation is presumed to have grave consequences when it’s not balanced.
The scientists are yet to learn more about this discovery to understand clearly the connection between obesity and cancer.
The Sandler-Kenner Foundation is at the forefront of funding cutting-edge research that is geared toward better detection and treatment options for pancreatic cancer. The foundation also seeks to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer care and the needs of the patients facing this diagnosis. The Sandler-Kenner Foundation primarily focuses on improving the survivability of pancreatic cancer patients by developing highly sensitive and cost-effective tools that can easily be implemented by medical practitioners to ensure early identification of pancreatic cancer.
Here’s the reason why you should donate to pancreatic cancer:
- Researchers are working feverishly to develop advanced tools to improve patient outcomes because pancreatic cancer support is a necessity. Even though the cause of pancreatic cancer is attributed to smoking, the majority of cases of pancreatic cancer have no known trigger. The survival rates are very low because patients with pancreatic cancer don’t survive long after diagnosis, and it is even worse to know that pancreatic cancer has no known diagnostic screening.
- Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rates compared to other cancers. The non-profit organizations that support research for developing better diagnostics and treatments like the Sandler-Kenner Foundation still need more financial support to further their efforts. Offering straight donations and actively participating in fundraising events or any other kind of support will help improve the treatments and outcomes.
- Raising awareness – The rates of diagnosis of pancreatic cancer keep increasing, but still many people are not aware of the disease and how it is taking away many lives. The best way to help is by donating to help raise awareness about pancreatic cancer and the need for more research and preventive measures.
- Pancreatic cancer is still a deadly disease that requires much funding for the ongoing studies on the disease which are limited because of directed focus on the already advanced symptomatic cancer. Currently, the biomarker research is confined to the samples from symptomatic patients. If the disease is studied early before presenting symptoms, researchers will develop advances in early detection of pancreatic cancer. Right now the disease has limited options for treatment and funds are being spent to find more comprehensive and effective treatments for all the stages of the disease.
A lot of time is spent on finding new methods of diagnosing and treating pancreatic cancer. Research is making progress in the new advances that will help get lifesaving developments in the detection, treatment and prevention of the disease. The dedication of researchers, if supported by adequate funding, more promising developments will be discovered to ensure that the approach to pancreatic cancer is improved.
Researchers have developed an approach that’s set to treat pancreatic cancer through immunotherapy using ‘educated’ killer cells. It was also discovered that even the cancer cells that had already spread to the lungs and the liver were killed. The new therapy was conducted in mice and has not yet been experimented in humans.
Here’s how the study was conducted:
- The scientists used pancreatic cancer cells from humans with advanced pancreatic cancer and transplanted the cells into mice. The mice’ own immune cells had already been modified to specifically identify and kill the cancer cells. The modified cells also labelled as ‘educated’ killer cells are known as CART-T cells.
- The immunotherapy using the CAR-T cells has shown positive outcomes in blood cancers, but when treating solid tumors, it has presented toxic side effects. The researchers are working on developing more safe and effective CAR-T cell therapies for the solid tumors like pancreatic cancer.
- The research team also introduced new technology that allows total control of the activity of the CART-T cell to make them safer.
- Their study suggests that the new switchable CAR-T cells can be administered to human patients with pancreatic cancer and still control the activity of the CAR-T cells at a level that will kill the tumor without presenting toxic side effects to the normal tissues.
- Since the treatment is switchable, the researchers can turn the therapy on or off or adjust the activity to the desired level. This will make the therapy safer and reduce the side effects and will also be controlled by administering or withdrawing the switch molecule in the mice.
This research highlights the potential of CAR-T cell immunotherapy in curing pancreatic cancer. For over forty years there has been little progress on developing new treatments for pancreatic cancer – a devastating cancer with very low survival rates. The results of this study are promising, but more has to be done to make the outcomes safe to be administered to pancreatic cancer patients in hospitals.
Despite an overall decline in cancer deaths in the U.S., pancreatic cancer incidences and deaths keep rising, and soon, it will become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Ninety percent of cancer patients do not survive after five years. Currently, there is no standard diagnostic tool or an established early detection method for pancreatic cancer.
Here are the facts that propel the urgency of funding a pancreatic cancer charity;
- The advancements in pancreatic cancer have encountered challenges due to the complexity of the disease and low rates of clinical trial enrolment. The disease also lacks public awareness, enough funding, and experience for doctors treating the disease and lack or enough researchers to study the disease. These facts demand an urgent need for more resources and more researchers to ensure progress that will improve the patient outcomes.
- Pancreatic cancer research is privately funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), but more funding by the federal government is necessary because of the survival rate of this disease. PanCAN wants to make sure that pancreatic cancer patients’ lives are saved, and so the organization donates to research, patient services, advocacy, and clinical initiatives. Patient outcomes need to be improved, and survival rates doubled as well, and this can only be possible with more funding.
- Pancreatic cancer urgently requires a breakthrough in research and awareness campaigns which can only be fulfilled through funding. The lack of funding also means that there’s very little known about the causality of pancreatic cancer even though most cases are attributed to smoking. Majority of pancreatic cancer cases have no known trigger. Also, only a few people can take on awareness because most pancreatic cancer patients do not survive long after their diagnosis.
The fact that pancreatic cancer has no known diagnostic screening is in itself alarming. There are calls to make donations online to help scientists and researchers in their tireless quest for diagnostic and treatment techniques to improve the survival rates for patients with this disease. The Sandler-Kenner Foundation supports the research efforts for pancreatic cancer and calls for donations towards the cause.
The Sandler-Kenner Foundation was founded in memory of Michael Sandler and Peter Kenner who succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Since then, the foundation has dedicated its funds on supporting and improving the survivability of pancreatic cancer patients by developing highly sensitive tools for early identification of the disease. They are also committed to increasing the awareness of neuroendocrine and adenocarcinoma pancreatic cancers.
- The studies on pancreatic cancer are limited due to directed focus on advanced symptomatic cancer. The biomarker research is also confined to samples from symptomatic patients. It is critical that the disease is studied early before symptoms manifest in order to make advances in early detection of pancreatic cancer. The disease also has limited options for treatment, and funds are being spent to find treatments that more comprehensive and effective for all the stages of the disease.
- In their efforts to initiate and support the research for early detection of pancreatic cancer, Sandler-Kenner foundation partnered with Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic initiated a landmark study in a trial as a novel strategy to screen for pancreatic cancer. The studies were conducted on pancreatic cancer patients at Mayo Clinic and have the potential to provide a practical approach to diagnosing the disease at an early stage to help improve life expectancy.
- The research for pancreatic cancer has not had adequate funding, but various sources, including Sandler-Kenner Foundation have continued to raise funds which with time will see pancreatic patients extend their lives with innovative treatments. Sandler-Kenner Foundation still provides funding for a wider scope of more in-depth research to help change the diagnostic and treatment approaches of the disease. Though slow, new developments are evolving in all areas of pancreatic cancer.
Much time is spent on developing new methods of diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Research is making great strides in new advances that will lead to more lifesaving developments in the treatment, prevention, and detection of this disease. With the dedication of researchers and adequate funding to support their work, more promising developments will come up to ensure that more defined ways of improving the approach to pancreatic cancer are devised.
Although cancer ranks fourth in the cause of cancer mortality rates in the U.S, there has not been a standard screening test to detect it early and save lives. The pancreas is located deep inside the body and it’s not easy to see or feel early tumors during physical examinations. It also presents no symptoms until the cancer has advanced and spread to other organs in the body. Individuals at high risk of the disease include those with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer, those with Lynch Syndrome and those with mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Here are some of the tests carried out on patients with pancreatic cancer:
- Blood tests – At times, the levels of some proteins in the blood rise when an individual has pancreatic cancer. Such proteins, known as tumor markers, can be detected using blood tests. The CA 19-9 and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) are tumor markers that are closely associated with pancreatic cancer. The CA-19-9 don’t always go up when one has pancreatic cancer and if they go up, the cancer is found when it’s already advanced. Sometimes, the tumor markers go up even when pancreatic cancer is not present. Blood tests can be ordered for patients showing symptoms but can’t be used to screen for pancreatic cancer. Blood tests are only effective in people who already have pancreatic cancer to tell whether the cancer is progressing or if the treatment is working.
- Genetic testing – These are only done on people with an increased risk. These are individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer or other cancers, which might be due to a specific genetic syndrome. Some genes can be tested to look for pancreatic cancer early when it can be easily treated. Endoscopic ultrasound has helped doctors to detect pancreatic cancer in such situations.
- CT scan – A CT scan or any other type of scan that focuses on the pancreas may be recommended although these tests have not been proven to be effective at picking up early-stage cancers or pre-cancers.
There’s no standard screening program or test for detecting pancreatic cancer early. Only people at high risk for the disease can be considered for screening. Researchers are working to discover means of detecting the disease earlier, especially in people with no family history of the disease.