Pancreatic Cancer - Silent Killer

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Pancreatic cancer is a malignant neoplasm that originates from transformed cells in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas has two main roles in the digestive system. It manufactures pancreatic juice that helps the body digest proteins and fats (Neoptolemos, 2010). Furthermore, it produces insulin that regulates the level of sugar in the body. It is about six inches long and located in the upper part of the abdomen. This type of cancer is a killer disease since about 7000 people are diagnosed with it in the United Kingdom each year. Medical experts claim that a poor diet and smoking may expose a person to the risk of this disease. Even though surgery is an option when diagnosed early, pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer with a poor prognosis due to several reasons.

Pancreatic cancer is caused by several factors. Scientists claim that this disease is caused by the damage of DNA because of mutations. These mutations are mainly inherited from the genes of the father or the mother of a person. Patients with this cancer syndrome inherit one mutant copy and a normal copy of cancer-associated genes (Dervenis & Bassi, 2000). When a person ages, a good copy of the gene gets damaged causing cells in the pancreas to be cancerous. People with diabetes have also a high risk of developing this type of cancer. In addition to this, consuming large amounts of red and processed meat exposes a patient to the risk of developing cancer. Examples of processed meat include sausages, ham and bacon. Research has also proven that the excessive consumption of alcohol exposes a patient to the risk of developing pancreatic cancer (O’Reily & Kelvin, 2010). A person, who smokes cigarettes, is also exposed to the risk of developing this type of cancer. Scientists have also proven that a patient, who is obese and inactive, has higher chances of developing pancreatic cancer. They conducted a study on 88000 patients and found out that nurses with a body mass index higher than 30 had a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. In addition, if a person consumes little selenium in his diet, he or she is more likely to develop this type of cancer.

Pancreatic cancer has several symptoms. Most people with pancreatic cancer experience pain in the stomach. This pain originates from the tail of the pancreas. They experience the pain in the stomach during the early stages of cancer developing, which later spreads to the back. Furthermore, most patients with this type of cancer have jaundice (Casil, 2009). The urine of these patients is darker than normal, and they have yellow skin. This is because the tumor developing in the pancreas blocks the bile duct causing bile to flow in the blood stream. Moreover, patients with pancreatic cancer are mostly diabetic. This is because blood of these patients contains too much sugar, and thus, they urinate frequently and lose a lot of weight. Patients with this type of cancer also experience itching in their skin. This is because their blood stream contains bile salts. The bowel of these patients also changes and becomes pale-colored and smelly. This is caused by the fact that the absorption of food in the digestive system of these patients changes (Neoptolemos, 2010). Pancreatic cancer patients have high temperatures caused by the inflammation of the pancreas. They also produce too much glucagon that causes these patients to have skin rashes and diarrhea.

Pancreatic cancer can be treated through surgery. In this method, doctors remove the entire tumor visible at the time of surgery. If a patient has pancreatic adenocarcinoma, doctors use radical surgery in order to remove the tumor. A doctor may consider performing a whipple operation in order to remove the tumor. This operation is carried out if the cancer is located at the head of the pancreas. The doctor carries out CT scan endoscopic sonography to avoid removing blood vessels located at the head of the pancreas (Casil, 2009). In this operation, the surgeon removes about 20% of the pancreas. Moreover, he/she removes the duodenum and the bottom half of the bile duct. After this surgery, patients have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If the patient has a tumor at the tail of the pancreas, the surgeon should carry out distal pancreatecomy and splenectomy. This is because tumors at the tail of the pancreas cause metastatic spread to other organs of the body. However, if the tumor affects the celiac artery, surgeons cannot perform this type of surgical operation (Dietrich, 2011). The location of the pancreas determines the extent of the surgery. The surgeon first makes pathological evaluation during the surgery in order to be sure that he/she eliminates the entire tumor after carrying out the surgery. After this surgery, the patient undergoes chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Pancreatic cancer is a killer disease because of a poor prognosis, since it is not easy to detect its early symptoms. Research has proven that most people detect that they have this cancer, when it is already late. This makes the treatment of this process difficult. Furthermore, most of its symptoms are vague and non-descript, and most people do not detect the seriousness of these symptoms until it is late (O’reily & Kelvin, 2010). This is because the patient may experience fatigue and the loss of appetite during the early stages of the disease, and he/she may not associate this feeling with pancreatic cancer. Moreover, the diagnosis of this disease depends on images that are generated by CT scans or endoscopic ultrasound, and such equipment does not necessarily detect cancer at its initial stages. However, scientists have advanced the endoscopic ultrasound that has helped in the detection of this disease during its early stages (Dietrich, 2011). Using this technique, the doctor inserts a long tube containing a camera at its end through the mouth of the patient down into his stomach and small intestines. Doctors prefer this method, since the patient wakes up with no pain. Furthermore, it is more accurate as compared to MRI and CT scans.

Pancreatic cancer is a killer disease, since most research centers conducting research on it lack enough funds to advance. According to the American Cancer Society, every year doctors diagnose around 43,140 patients with pancreatic cancer. About 6 % of these patients live longer than five years (Dietrich, 2011). Despite the seriousness of this disease, the National Cancer Institute only dedicates 2 % of its annual budget to pancreatic cancer research. Money that this institute allocates to pancreatic cancer research are not enough to conduct extensive research on new ways of treating this disease. In addition to this, patients suffering from this disease die after a short time, and thus, they do not participate in research trials (Neoptolemos, 2010). It is not paid enough attention as compared to lung and breast cancer, and thus, most organizations rather donate money to funding research on breast and lung cancer, but not on pancreatic cancer. Since scientists have not succeeded in developing equipment that will detect this disease during its early stages, donors do not see the urgency of funding this research. Since this research is not adequately funded, research centers do not pay its researchers well, and thus, they have no motivation to carry out further research.

Pancreatic cancer is a killer disease, since pancreatic tumor is highly aggressive and spreads quickly to other organs of the body. Pancreatic cancer mainly spreads at four stages. At the first stage, a tumor is usually less than 2 cm. At the second stage, cancer starts to spread into nearby tissues around the pancreas that include a duodenum and a bile duct (Dervenis & Bassi, 2000). Although cancer spreads at a fast rate during this stage, it does not spread to large blood vessels or lymph nodes during this stage. The third stage is known as locally advanced cancer. During this stage, cancer grows outside the pancreas and spreads to nearby large blood vessels. Furthermore, it spreads to lymph nodes and affects their activity. During the last stage of cancer, it spreads to the liver and lungs. A tumor spreads at a fast rate, and it is mostly at the last stages before doctors actually detect it. Because of this fact, it becomes difficult for doctors to perform surgery in an attempt of removing the tumor. This causes more fatal death cases arising from this disease.

In conclusion, pancreatic cancer is a killer disease because of a poor prognosis. This disease is mainly caused by a poor diet, inheriting a mutant copy of genes, smoking and drinking alcohol. Symptoms of this disease are fatigue, weight loss, diabetes, jaundice, skin rashes and abdominal pains. These symptoms are hard to detect, since it is hard for a patient to associate these symptoms with pancreatic cancer. Surgeons perform whipple operations and pancreatecomy in order to remove tumors causing this cancer. It is a killer disease, since most cancer research centers conducting research on pancreatic cancer receive little funding from donors and the National Cancer Institute. These researchers become less motivated in extending their research work. It is also a killer disease, since a tumor is highly aggressive and spreads to other organs at a fast rate.

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