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.
There is a new blood test that promises a better chance of early detection of pancreatic cancer. This test, when used together with the current blood test prescribed, will also enable the screening of those at high risk for the disease. This combination of tests spots 70 percent of pancreatic cancers with a false-positive rate of less than 5 percent.
Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult for several reasons, top of which being that patients do not present with obvious symptoms early on. Its symptoms may resemble other diseases thus making it difficult to point out outright. The pancreas is also hidden behind the stomach and X-ray imaging may not easily catch it. This means that for many patients, the disease will have progressed to an advanced stage by the time they are finding out about it.
Pancreatic cancer is a dangerous disease and only 8.5 percent of patients live past five years. This makes these blood tests essential. This is how they work:
- The tests measure the amount of sugars given off by pancreatic cancer cells. The current test checks the levels of CA-19-9 while the new test looks at sTRA. These sugars are produced by different subsets of pancreatic cancer.
- The current test is used to confirm the presence of pancreatic cancer and finds about 40 percent of pancreatic cancers. It is also not used for screening for the ailment. This rate is almost half that of the two tests used together.
- Better detection rates mean patients can be screened and early intervention can be prescribed so as to better treat the disease. This is bound to improve survival rates for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
This combination test is great news for people at a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These include those with a history of pancreatic cancer in their family, those who developed type 2 diabetes later in their life, or those who previously had chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cysts.
Every year over 50,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States. Higher numbers are witnessed in Europe. Pancreatic cancer is a tough disease to live with as statistics show that of the people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, most of them will have died just within the first year.
Prostate cancer survival rates and duration paint a bleak image of things compared to all other major cancers. The median survival rate where the pancreatic cancer is advanced and untreated is close to three and a half months. This figure increases to eight months if good treatment is introduced. It is not set in stone and chances are many patients will live much longer.
As with any statistics, the length of time one lives will depend on several things including:
- Stage – The stage at which cancer is diagnosed always has an impact on survival rates. Pancreatic cancer detected in its early stages is more likely to get cured with surgery without damaging the rest of the organs. Catching it early means the risk of it spreading to other organs is reduced. Pancreatic cancer diagnosed in its advanced stages becomes difficult to treat.
- Treatment – There are different treatment options one can choose to help fight pancreatic cancer. The choice will depend on how far the cancer has progressed but the best option is surgery. Surgery may however not be possible for some cases. Some treatment methods like immunotherapy take a longer time to take effect and may not be advisable for advanced cancers.
- Health –A healthy body is better able to fight disease. Even after diagnosis and when undergoing treatment, patients should thrive to live a healthy lifestyle in form of proper nutrition, enough rest, and staying physically active. It is also important to have a healthy and positive mindset. It may take time and a little prodding but a healthy mindset always stands a patient in good stead.
Facts, figures, and statistics are all useful but there is no particular length of time for which a patient can live with pancreatic cancer. The prognosis may be scary but statistics continue to improve with time as researchers put in more work and resources into coming up with better treatment options.
Among all the ethnic groups in the U.S., Black Americans have the highest risk for pancreatic cancer, which is up to 67% higher than other groups. This is according to the data by the National Cancer Institute.
While there are many risk factors for pancreatic cancer such as diabetes, smoking, family history and obesity, evidence shows that the disparity is more attributed to access and social issues, and not biology.
Clinical trials lead to better outcomes
January being an awareness month for National Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials, was crucial to remind everyone about the significance of participating in a clinical trial as patients who take part in clinical research have improved outcomes.
Each treatment applicable today received an approval through a clinical trial. According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, it’s important to carry out clinical trials at the diagnosis stage and when making a decision regarding treatment.
Typically, during the pancreatic cancer fight, clinical trials offer the best options for treatment. They provide patients with early access with advanced treatments that can result in better treatment options, progress in research and improved outcomes. If there’s no increased enrolment, it would be hard to receive approval on new and improved methods of treatment.
Ethnic diversity and tumor biology are important in clinical trials
According to I’m In, a campaign encouraging diversity when it comes to clinical trials, the clinical trial participants comprise of 5% African Americans and 1% of Hispanics. This is despite the former consisting of 12% of the U.S. population and the later comprising of 16% of the U.S. population.
The I’m In campaign demonstrates the importance of a patient’s racial and ethnic background in clinical trials. More diversity in clinical trials can help researchers to come up with better ways of fighting illnesses that disproportionately affect certain populations.
Besides, each pancreatic cancer is unique and treatments may depend on tumor biology. Studies reveal that selecting treatments on the basis of tumor biology may contribute to their success.
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.