Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pancreatic Cancer - A Tricky Killer

Pancreatic Cancer: A Tricky Killer

Are you above fifty?

Are you loosing weight?

Do you have abdominal pain?

Are you a diabetic?

Then consult a gastroenterologist immediately.

You must rule out Pancreatic Cancer!

Patrick Swayze, the American actor, singer and dancer died of pancreatic cancer in September this year. This celebrity’s death brought about a lot of awareness and in that way he has done a lot of good. November is the month devoted to creating awareness among public about this special type of cancer. Knowing about this deadly form of cancer may help you get an early diagnosis and chances of living longer may be possible. Shall we quickly run through an Intro?

Nearly 47000 persons suffer from pancreatic cancer in the USA alone. The chances of living for about five years after the diagnosis are just 5%. Most patients die within a year. In India the pancreatic Cancer load is about 17000 in 2008. This figure is likely to go up as the ageing population is increasing year after year.

What causes pancreatic cancer? No clear cut cause has been established. However, some predisposing factors include: Smoking, Ethnicity (Jews suffer more), old age (persons above 50 get PC more than others), Diabetics, and men as against women. In India, many persons below 50 are also affected which means we are losing earning members.

The diagnosis of PC is generally delayed for long as most of the symptoms are common place. Pain in the abdomen especially in the upper region, back pain, yellowing of skin or eyes, loss of weight, loss of appetite, mental depression are common symptoms. Unfortunately these symptoms can be taken lightly very often as commonplace problems. Hence when actual diagnosis is made the cancer has reached a fairly advanced stage (fourth stage which is terminal) and very little can be done. Even surgery may be impractical and useless.

Can PC be prevented? Not really. Chances of getting may be reduced by avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, maintaining good healthy weight, nutritious food and warding off diabetes. These are some general beliefs. However, a study of some 80000 persons in 2006 failed to show up any definitive correlation.

As such, there is no cure. No one comes out totally cured. Only palliative procedures like Radiation therapy, Chemotherapy and surgical interventions are done. Extending lifetime and improving quality of life are only aimed at. But all cancer treatment procedures are accompanied with a number of side effects. For instance in Chemotherapy certain drugs are injected via veins. The patient suffers headache, nausea, fever, severe pain in abdomen, loss of hair etc. Diarrhea, constipation, Sore throat or ulcers in mouth or bone pain may also be present. Not all patients get all side effects. When the patient recovers somewhat and feels just about normal another cycle of Chemotherapy is advised. The pain and suffering continue in cycles. Most pain relieving drugs have limited benefit. In India we lack palliative care mechanisms, hospices and trained care givers. If you want to know more you may consult specialists at run by Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai.

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