What is the prognosis for pancreatic cancer?

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Answered by: Anita, An Expert in the Cancer Types N-Z Category
"Prognosis for pancreatic cancer"

Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer mortality, accounting for 2%-3% of new cancer cases each year. Making it on of the most fatal and agressive cancer out there.

If the tumor is discovered in the early stages, tumor cells may be localized within the pancreas; however this is unlikely. More often, the tumor is discovered in the later stages of development and may be a well defined mass or has already metastized to other organs.

The pancreas is an organ deep within the abdomen that lies under the stomach. The pancreas has two main functions; it maintains and regulates blood sugar levels and produces enzymes needed for digestion.

A pancreatic tumor may be the primary cancer or it may result from matastasis from cancers of the breast,lungs or other organs. Pancreatic cancer grows rapidly and spreads to surrounding organs such as liver, stomach or intestine,lung and eventually to the lymph nodes.One of the difficulty's of diagnosis is the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are very vague and mimic other disorders. These symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, abdominal discomfort, and nausea. The most common presenting physicsl sigh of jaundice is typically shown in the later stages of the disease.

The prognosis for pancreatic cancer is very grim. Most patients have a survival rate of less than 1 year. Currently there are no specific blood tests to diagnose or genetic marker to predict an individuals susceptibility to this type of cancer. A cat scan can confirm the presence of a tumor. Biopsy of the pancreatic tissue can reveal malignant cells.

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. The most prevalent risk factor is smoking, and research suggests a likely association with diets high in saturated fats. There also appears to be a correlation between diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

Approximentaly 35,00 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer yearly. The incidence of this particular fatal and agressive cancer increases with age between 60 and 70, and is more common in men than women. Pancreatic cancer is one of the least research funded of all cancers.

Management of a patient with pancreatic cancer is geared toward preventing the spread of the tumor and decreasing pain. Chemotherapy, or radiation is used to relieve pain. Drug therapy is used in an effort to keep the pain under control. The usual treatment is with opioid analgesics. High doses may be needed for the intense abdominal and back pain that occurs in the late stages of the disease.

In most cases, the diagnosis is made a few months before death. The stage of progression and home care resources dictate whether a patient can be discharged to their home or whether additional care is needed in a skilled nursing facility or hospice.

More research and federal dollars are needed to lead to earlier diagnosis, and treatment for this agressive and fatal cancer. The odds of surviving pancreatic cancer are very low, but with increased information we can optimize the prognosis for pancreatic cancer.

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