With a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent and nearly 53,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year, pancreatic cancer is a real concern for many. Known to kill about 41,000 Americans annually, this form of cancer is among the deadliest. Courtesy of the location of the pancreas deep inside the body, the disease often goes undetected until long after it has begun to spread. This is complicated by very few symptoms at its onset, making early detection difficult, if not impossible, in many cases.
Researchers believe they may have found a way to better identify those who are at high-risk for the development of this disease.
Findings in a similar vein may hold the key to more accurate early detection. The findings come from studies related to the oral germs found in the mouths of pancreatic cancer. The studies found that two particular germs served as strong markers for risk. Patients who presented with one of the two oral bacterium had a 59 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those with the second. Those with the second were about 50 percent prone to already have pancreatic cancer, studies have found.
The findings shed light on a marker that may at some point down the road serve as an early predictor for pancreatic cancer. In turn, researchers say that preventative measures can be taken to help patients at higher risk avoid the disease. Whether the findings will lead to more widespread screening tools remains to be seen. Regardless, researchers suggest the findings to point to the need for good oral hygiene and routine dental check-ups.
Pancreatic cancer continues to have one of the lowest survival rates of all forms of cancer. Researchers, however, are working hard to make advances. The connection between oral health and pancreatic cancer may someday serve as a valuable marker to give patients a chance to prevent this disease before it takes root.
Any cancer treatment can cause side effects. Proper medical care will lessen the impacts of the side effects. Before undergoing any pancreatic cancer treatment, ask your doctor about potential side effects to learn how they may affect you. Update your doctor if you start experiencing side effects so they can help you to relieve or reduce those effects.
- Fatigue – often caused by an extreme lack of energy. Most pancreatic cancer patients experience this effect. The level of fatigue differs from one person to another.
- Nausea and vomiting – if you are undergoing chemotherapy, then you will most likely experience nausea and vomiting. Specific treatments also have these effects. The effects might happen immediately after surgery or several days after.
- Stool changes – these treatments affect your digestive system leading to constipation or diarrhea. Some of these effects will make your stool change in color.
- Mouth sores – some treatments produce sores on the lips, tongue, gums, or the surface of the mouth.
- Neuropathy – This is a side effect that develops numbness, burning in the hands and feet, tingling, and constipation.
- Pain – Some treatments subject patients to extreme pressure and pain. Some of these treatments are radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy.
- Skin and nail changes – changes such as inflammation may occur during treatment. Certain treatments cause redness, dryness, tenderness, and peeling of soles and palms.
- Taste and Appetite changes – Surgery and treatments such as immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy can cause changes in how food tastes. Patients also may develop a poor appetite that can make them lose weight.
Pancreatic cancer treatment, just like any other treatment, can cause mild to severe side effects. Your help care team will help you manage these side effects, although most of them are common among patients. Anytime you feel overwhelmed, seek medical attention.
Pancreatic cancer and its treatment can cause physical challenges that need to be addressed. It is important that patients discuss their symptoms and side effects with the cancer care team to ensure supportive care. Healthcare professionals can help with symptom management and palliative care to help improve outcomes.
Supportive care makes patients comfortable and helps to preserve their quality of life as well as their overall wellbeing during and after their pancreatic cancer treatment. It is therefore crucial that patients take care of their overall health by dealing with the physical challenges from the disease.
Some of the challenges that need supportive care include:
- Ascites – Ascites occur when there is extra fluid in a patient’s abdomen. They develop mostly when the cancer has affected the lymphatic system, liver or abdominal lining. This causes swelling and stretching out of the belly. Supportive care techniques like diuretics (water pills) and paracentesis can help.
- Jaundice – The buildup of bilirubin in one’s body causes jaundice. Jaundice can affect some patients with pancreatic cancer by causing yellowing of the eyes and skin, light or clay-colored stool, dark urine and itching. This can be helped using supportive care techniques such as bypass surgery or using a stent.
- Pain – Most pancreatic cancer patients feel pain in the mid-back or belly due to blocking of the digestive tract by the tumor. The tumor can also push against organs or nerves. Pain can also be caused by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. Palliative care can help to manage the pain early by offering non-drug approaches as well as prescription medications.
- Nutrition – Good nutrition can help pancreatic cancer patients to tolerate treatment and also maintain a healthy weight. Sometimes pancreatic cancer, its medications or surgery can cause poor appetite or affect the ability of the patient to break down nutrients. Supportive care can help to plan meals and find out if pancreatic enzymes can help. Proper nutrition also helps to manage the side effects of pancreatic cancer.
Every pancreatic cancer patient experiences unique physical challenges for their condition. Talking to the healthcare team about your symptoms and side effects can help them feel better throughout their treatment.
Pancreatic cancer only presents symptoms at later stages when it is difficult to treat. More than 50,000 people in America are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year. Even after diagnosis, getting effective treatment for pancreatic cancer becomes difficult because it is often too late.
Researchers are exploring options that can improve the survival rates of pancreatic cancer and also help preserve the quality of life of the patients. A new drug combination known as FOLFIRINOX was studied and found to have longer survival probability and offer better surgical options for patients.
- The reason why pancreatic cancer is very lethal is because of its resistance to chemotherapy. But oncologists are trying to find out whether FOLFIRINOX, which is a combination of cancer drugs can improve the outcomes in patients with borderline resectable pancreatic cancer. When pancreatic cancer is borderline resectable, it means that the tumor cannot be removed safely because it’s too close to a blood vessel.
- Pancreatic tumors are often very close to important blood vessels and can only be removed through surgery or be shrunk to make them resectable. During a study on patients with borderline resectable pancreatic cancer who were treated with FOLFIRINOX, researchers found that FOLFIRINOX prolonged their lives by making surgery possible.
- Most of the cancers studied responded well to FOLFIRINOX, and the tumors were completely removed through successful surgery without affecting the nearby veins. The patients survived for more than 22 months overall.
With better drugs, pancreatic cancer treatment has improved. But despite the good news, pancreatic cancer is still the fourth deadliest cancer in the world. Scientists are still pursuing more studies and experiments in full spectrum research to identify solutions that will provide better outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer. There is hope that they will come up with lasting solutions and FFOLFIRINOX is just the beginning.
About fifty pancreatic organizations from all parts of the world converged to Coral Gables, Florida to attend the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition’s annual meeting held from 7th to 9th May 2019.
The World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition’s purpose is to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer across the globe. The coalition also aims to strengthen the capacity of their efforts to create a powerful impact globally. Launched in May 2016, the coalition has recorded several achievements in their quest to raise awareness and help to enhance the best practices for pancreatic cancer treatments.
During the convention:
- The members shared their expertise and experience regarding better ways of achieving transformational change for pancreatic cancer patients. They discussed the coalition’s achievements, the global scientific perspective of pancreatic cancer, and the newest best practices used in treating pancreatic cancer and other topics.
- The founding member of the coalition, Julie Fleshman, stressed that sharing the best practices about pancreatic cancer and learning from other members is very crucial to improving patient outcomes. She implied that the more members came together to share, the faster there will be progress in pancreatic cancer patient outcomes.
- There was also a live panel discussion about pancreatic cancer science from a global perspective. Various WPCC members served as moderators and panelists of the live presentation that was streamed on Facebook Live.
- The meeting also hosted in-depth workshops that saw all members sharing the new best practices for treating pancreatic cancer. Topics like understanding clinical trials and supporting patients with pancreatic cancer were also included.
Pancreatic cancer is still among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The predictions about its diagnosis and mortality rate statistics are still alarming. The WPCC member organizations plan to continue meeting to learn from each other and work together to implement strategies that will help to overcome pancreatic cancer.
The pancreas secretes insulin and other digestive enzymes in the body. It helps to break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. A pancreatic cancer patient requires proper nutrition during and after treatment. The nutritional goal of a patient with pancreatic cancer should be to get adequate calories, vitamins, fluids, minerals, and proteins every day in order to maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass.
Diarrhea is one of the side effects experienced by pancreatic cancer patients. This may come as a result of pancreatic enzyme insufficiency, bacterial overgrowth, dumping resection or lactose intolerance. Making a healthy choice by maintaining good nutrition can help to minimize the treatment side effects of pancreatic cancer. It can also help patients to recover from surgery and maintain quality of life.
However, some foods can cause discomfort to patients. Such foods should be avoided by patients, and they include:
- Foods that are high in fats, including whole milk, rich foods, high-fat cheeses or meats, among others.
- Fast foods, foods with added margarine, butter, oil, cream cheese, sour cream, full salad dressing, and also fried foods.
- Refined foods or carbohydrates that contain high fructose corn syrup or sucrose, especially if the patient has dumping syndrome.
- Spicy foods that contain hot peppers, onions, or garlic.
- Foods high in fiber
- If lactose intolerant, avoid dairy and milk products.
- Soft drinks, coffee, and tea.
Patients with multiple side effects may experience difficulty in deciding the best food to eat. Keeping a diary of your daily food consumption and the symptoms to watch out for will help to monitor the patterns of foods that worsen the symptoms, those that neutralize the symptoms and those that make their situation better. A registered dietitian’s advice is vital in this case.
Each pancreatic cancer patient has individualized nutritional needs. It is wise to liaise with the doctor or dietician before making changes to your diet.
Pancreatic cancer spreads quietly and owing to the position of the pancreas behind the stomach, any tumors can easily go undetected during regular scans. This means that many times, doctors find patients with pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to different parts outside the pancreas. Diagnosing cancer at this stage leaves about 20 percent of patients eligible for surgery. The others may become eligible later on after treatment depending on whether it is locally advanced or borderline resectable.
Patients diagnosed with metastatic disease, which means the cancer has already spread to other organs, are not eligible for surgery. A recent study may change this after it looked at whether and when a pancreatic cancer patient can qualify for surgery. The study gave insightful information about surgery and its outcomes as such:
- The study gave three criteria that would improve the chance of successful surgery for patients with locally-advanced or borderline-resectable pancreatic cancer.
- They identified chemotherapy as the most effective method to use before finally getting to surgery. Increased chemotherapy rounds gave better results. Chemotherapy comes with notable side effects and not every patient will be able to handle it in high volumes. Some tumors also don’t respond effectively to chemotherapy.
- To check whether the chemotherapy worked, the study used PET scans and tested for CA19-9 blood tumor markers, ensuring they were at normal levels before going ahead with surgery. PET scans give a markedly more accurate prediction of response to surgery.
The results make for encouraging news for those patients that fit the criteria and can handle the voracity that comes with chemotherapy. It brings the possibility of extended lives to the fore. It is therefore important to remember that this treatment method may not be for everyone, based on the guidelines given. It would be useful to first find out whether the patient would benefit from surgery before subjecting them to an unnecessary invasive procedure.
Pancreatic cancer starts in the pancreas, which sits behind the stomach. It spreads very fast but is not easily detected in its early stages since the pancreas is covered by the stomach. This cancer comes with a few symptoms which may easily be mistaken for something else such as fatigue, depression, new-onset diabetes, pain in the upper abdomen radiating to the back, unintended weight loss and jaundice. Many patients live a short time after diagnosis since it will most likely be discovered at an advanced stage.
Both treatment and detection statistics and information are barely scratching the surface. While a lot of resources are dedicated to cancer research, very little goes to pancreatic cancer. Here is why more funding is necessary:
- Early detection of any cancer sets the stage for better treatment outcomes. Pancreatic cancer patients usually discover it by accident since the symptoms are neither pronounced in the early stages nor unique to the disease. Research so far shows that pancreatic cancer causes changes to the pancreas early on. Further research would provide insight into how to tap into this to make early detection possible. There are currently no specific diagnostic tests for pancreatic cancer.
- Finding pancreatic cancer at an advanced stage limits the treatment options. Surgery is usually not a viable option for many patients since it would be highly invasive owing to the location of the pancreas. Research is looking to develop laparoscopic alternatives for surgery to reduce complications and recovery time.
- Researchers are looking into new treatment methods for pancreatic cancer to shrink tumors and possibly explicitly target cancer cells. Vaccines to improve the body’s immunity would also be great.
Research would bring so many useful treatments to those diagnosed and would help fight this disease that is silently affecting the world’s population. Funding pancreatic cancer research is a worthwhile cause to get involved in.
Smoking poses various health risks and could open the door for other ailments to fester and eventually affect the body. Research has found that more than one in five cases of pancreatic cancer has their root in smoking. Incidence was 24 percent in men and 7.2 percent in women. It therefore follows that quitting smoking drastically reduces your chances of developing pancreatic cancer and lung cancer as well.
Pancreatic cancer usually appears at a more advanced age and carries a five-year survival rate of less than ten percent. With these figures, the best bet at keeping it in check is by attempting to prevent it.
- An estimated 21.7 percent of future pancreatic cancer diagnoses in Australia will emanate from smoking, whether recent or current. Lung cancer estimates stand at 53.7 percent and 3.9 percent for colorectal cancer.
- The sooner a smoker quits the better the odds become because the risk of developing pancreatic cancer lingers for 15 years after smoking cessation. This is a very long time to be worried about developing a deadly cancer from something that doesn’t quite add value to your body. The study didn’t find any link between body mass index or alcohol and pancreatic cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer symptoms include fatigue, late-onset diabetes, jaundice, upper abdominal pain that moves to the back, nausea, weight loss and blood clots. These symptoms may be mistaken for something else and they tend to appear after the cancer has been present for a while and may even have already spread.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth-leading cause of death in Australian and New Zealand women and the fourth-leading cause for men. The numbers are glaring, especially because there are few studies that have made this connection between smoking and pancreatic cancer. Diagnosis and treatment for pancreatic cancer is still difficult to attain and prevention might truly be the better option for now.
Statistics show that pancreatic cancer was third among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in 2018 in the United States. An estimated 56,770 new pancreatic cancer diagnoses and 45,750 deaths will occur in 2019 according to the American Cancer Society.
Men are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer mostly due to an increase in tobacco use but the figures currently stand at one in 65 for women and one in 63 for men. Many of those affected are over 45 years of age and almost 90 percent are over 55 and the risk increases with age. The average age at which patients are diagnosed is 71.
There are several reasons as to why this particular cancer is deadly. They include:
- Early stage pancreatic cancer presents minimal symptoms. The location of the pancreas makes it difficult to notice any changes in tissue and there is no specialized equipment or procedure for screening as it is with other cancers. All these factors combined make it difficult to catch pancreatic cancer early enough before spreading to other regions.
- There are two types of pancreatic cancers: exocrine and endocrine tumors. Endocrine tumors account for a paltry one percent of all pancreatic cancers. Exocrine tumors are more common and incidentally more aggressive. Once the cancer advances, it can recur and even spread to the liver.
- Once pancreatic cancer has progressed to further stages, surgery becomes the only treatment option and even then, only if it hasn’t spread. If any microscopic amount of cancer cells remains behind, the chance of recurrence increases.
Researchers are putting in more work into unearthing better treatment methods. Using genetics, doctors are focusing more on immune therapy and targeted therapies to get better results. With time, there will be a simple test like a blood or urine test for easier and faster detection. In the meantime, doctors use particular approved drugs to kill the metabolism and blood supply of these tumors.