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What is Pancreatic Cancer by Emilie Arl

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Pancreatic cancer is not to be taken lightly.  The pancreas is a very important organ in the body.  This organ produces enzymes that help break down food and helps control blood sugar levels.  It is very important that the pancreas works properly because of the important functions that it does on a daily basis.  Without the pancreas working properly, the rest of the body will not function correctly.  The pancreas is located behind the stomach and in front of the spine.

Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect in the early stages.  Often the symptoms go unnoticed if any symptoms even occur.  Often times when symptoms do show, health professionals commonly diagnose it as jaundice.  This is because both jaundice and pancreatic cancer can give off a yellowing of the skin as well as the eyes.  This simply means that the skin will have a yellowish tent to it.  Another common symptom is being fatigued and weight loss.  Because of where the pancreas is located, it is not easy for doctors and other healthcare professionals to know if anything is wrong.  They are not able to easily feel the pancreas to be able to tell if there is anything wrong or if there is a tumor on the pancreas. Often special tests have to be done to even be able to know what is going on with the pancreas.  These tests include blood tests, imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan, and for a last resort, doctors can go in and do a biopsy.  Biopsy just means that the doctor is going to go in, usually with a needle, and remove a part of the tissue, in this case, a part of the pancreatic tissue, and do testing on it.

There are actually two types of tumors that are involved in this type of cancer. There is an exocrine tumor, which is most common, and an endocrine tumor, which is less common.  The good news is that endocrine tumors are typically benign, meaning they are not cancerous.  However, an exocrine tumor is cancerous.  Treatment of this kind of tumor depends on the stage that the tumor is at.  The stage is determined by how much the cancer has spread.  The more spread out it is, the more serious the cancer is.  This ranges from stage I to stage IV.  Just like any kind of disease, the earlier it is detected, the better.

Once someone has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, treatment is started.  Because this type of cancer is often not found early on, it can often be difficult to treat.  Some treatments include surgery to try to remove a tumor in the pancreas, radiation, chemotherapy, which is a very common treatment in all types of cancer, and target therapy.  Target therapy only attacks the cancer cells, unlike radiation and chemotherapy.  Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses very high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and can shrink tumors.  This can help shrink the tumor if it has spread too far across the organ, in preparation for surgery to remove the tumor, and also can be used after surgery to help kill off any cancer cells left behind.  Chemotherapy is a drug that is taken to kill off cancer cells.  This can be administered through an I.V. or by pill.  Once this drug is in the bloodstream, it spreads throughout the body.  However, chemotherapy does have some short-term effects, such as; hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and weight loss from the loss of appetite and vomiting.  During chemotherapy, it is very important to watch for infection, since the chemotherapy kills off white blood cells, which fight off infections.

It is very important to talk to a doctor and other health professionals about pancreatic cancer.





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