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Pancreatic Cancer – From Symptoms to Treatment

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It is said that knowledge is power. This statement is ever so true when patients have been diagnosed with any disease, but especially is this true when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Usually, this type of cancer has a poor prognosis because it spreads quickly and is not detected early. As a result, in many cases, when a person finally starts experiencing signs, the cancer is advanced, making surgery impossible.

In a healthy pancreas, enzymes are secreted that make digestion easier and hormones are released that helps regulate the metabolism of blood sugars. But with pancreatic cancer, genetic mutations develop. The mutations outlive normal cells and can even turn into a tumor.

There are two types of pancreatic cancer – adenocarcinoma or exocrine (cancer in the duct of the pancreas) and endocrine cancer (cancer that forms in hormone-producing cells). The type of treatment needed depends on which type of these cancers you have. So if you are having recurring symptoms such as, unexplained weight loss, stomach pain, jaundice, make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. Your physician will have to do a number of tests as other conditions and diseases will have to be ruled out.

Unfortunately, doctors have not found a way to detect this kind of cancer in its early stages. Which is why after getting a confirmed diagnosis of pancreatic cancer – only after a number of tests are completed – the doctor will next determine the advancement or stage of the cancer. The stage of cancer dictates your treatment course. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, stages of pancreatic cancer can be described as:

Resectable – all tumors nodules can be removed

Locally advanced – tumor cannot be removed with surgery due to the spread of cancer to surrounding tissues and blood vessels

Metastic – cancer has spread to distant organs like the lungs and liver


Stage I – cancer is confined to pancreas
Stage II – cancer has spread to pancreas and nearby organs and lymph nodes
Stage III – cancer has spread to pancreas, major blood vessels and to lymph nodes
Stage IV – cancer has spread to pancreas, liver, lungs, and lining of abdomen

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HERWriter Guide

Hi Dita - As you noted, doctors are unable to diagnose pancreatic cancer at an early stage, which makes hearing this diagnosis especially hard for patients. One of the best ways to cope with any cancer diagnosis is through support groups. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has information about this on their website at


Thanks for your comprehensive look at pancreatic cancer which I'm sure will be helpful to readers.
Take good care,

November 30, 2009 - 6:01pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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