Cancer Of The Pancreas: Description, Symptoms, Stages And Treatment
The pancreas is an organ that lies behind the stomach and enveloped in a loop formed by the small intestine. It has two functions for the body. One is that it secretes enzymes that are needed to break down food and the other is that it produces hormones that help in the regulation of carbohydrates from the food stores.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest and most serious of cancers. Even though it accounts for just 2% of cancer cases in the US, it is already fourth in cancer deaths. The reason is that it is hard to diagnose it because the pancreas is hidden behind other organs in your stomach.
Another reason is that cancer of the pancreas does not give symptoms until it is already in the advanced stage. Symptoms, if they appear, are pain in your upper abdominals, jaundice (yellowing of one's skins and eyes), nausea, loss of appetite, significant weight loss due to digestive problems and depression.
When these symptoms appear, a patient must go straight to the hospital to be examined by a doctor. The doctor might do some tests (such as x-ray, CT scan, MRI and ultrasound) and he might even need to do some surgery to be sure.
Once a doctor has done surgery and found out that the patient has cancer of the pancreas, he will try to diagnose how much has the disease spread and classify it into different stages.
Stage I Cancer is when the cancer cells is found just on the pancreas itself or is just starting to spread to other organs in a patient's stomach.
Stage II Cancer is when the cancer cells have already infected other organs near the pancreas (such as spleen and colon) but has not yet reached the nearest lymph nodes.
Stage II Cancer is when the cancer cells have reached the lymph nodes, the ones responsible for producing and storing infection-fighting cells.
Stage IV Cancer is when the cancer cells have spread out to a patient's liver or even his lungs.
Recurrent Stage is when the cancer cells have come back after it was already treated.
Cancer of the pancreas, depending on what stage it already is and the age of a patient, can still be treated. A doctor will probably suggest three things, namely, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Surgery is done to take out the tumor. Depending on what part is infected, a doctor might do a Whipple procedure (head of the pancreas), distal pancreatectomy (tail of the pancreas) and total pancreatectomy (whole pancreas).
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays, which can come from a machine, to kill cancer cells and prevent it from spreading to other organs in your body.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be taken orally or injected direct to a patient's bloodstream. Chemotherapy can also kill cancer cells aside from cancer cells from the pancreas. Chemotherapy is frequently done in conjunction with radiation therapy.
Cancer of the pancreas is one of the deadliest cancers mainly because it can spread into different organs without a patient even knowing it. The best way to prevent this is to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle and to not ignore possible symptoms that might go worse if not taken care of immediately.