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Introduction to Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreas is an organ in the lower part of the stomach. Ithas an important function in the body, it secretes enzymes that aid digestionand hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. Pancreatic cancer isa cancer that begins in the tissues of the pancreas. And although experts donot know what the actual cause of this type of cancer is, they have establishedthat there are several risk factors that may significantly increase one’schances of getting it. These risk factors are smoking, chronic pancreatitis,diabetes mellitus, and genetics (if someone in the family has had pancreaticcancer).

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer are: jaundice,weight loss, upper abdominal pain (that may radiate to the back), blood clots, fatigue,depression, loss of appetite, and bloating, etc.

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer can easily be attributed to other lessserious and more common conditions. This lack of specific symptoms may explainthe high number of people who have a more advanced stage of disease whenpancreatic cancer is discovered.

Treatment for pancreatic cancerdepends on the stage and location of the cancer as well as on one’s age,overall health and personal preferences. The first goal of pancreatic cancertreatment is to eliminate the cancer, or, if that is not possible,prevent it from growing and causing more harm. The treatment usually includeschemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumor, or radiation therapy.

Survival Rate

When looking at survival rates for this type of cancer, itis significant to know that the numbers relate to the percentage of people withthe disease who remain alive for a certain period after their diagnosis. Inmost cases, statistics refer to five-year survival rates.

The survival rate is based on various factors, such as aperson’s age and general health, the stage of the cancer, whether the tumor canbe removed surgically and whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or hasrecurred.

The five-year relative survival rates by race and sex were:4.7% for white men, 4.2% for white women, 2.9% for African American men, and 5.6percent for African American women.

Based on the stage of the cancer, the correspondingfive-year relative survival rates were: 16.4% for localized, 7.0% for regional,1.8% for distant, and 4.3% for unstaged. Diagnosing the cancer at an earlystage increases the chances of it being cured significantly. However, thestatistics of the times of when the cancer has been diagnosed are as follows:14% of all cases had staging information that was not known, 52% of all caseshas been diagnosed after the cancer has already metastasized (that is thedistant stage), and only 7% have been discovered while the cancer is confinedto the primary stage (when it’s localized). This can significantly lessen thesurvival rates. One should bear in mind that these statistics are general andcannot be used on an individual case, being that pancreatic cancer treatmentand responses to treatment vary from patient to patient.

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