If you’ve been following recent celebrity headlines, you know that actor Patrick Swayze was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While viewed as one of the most serious and deadliest forms of cancer, for Swayze, the prognosis is pretty good.
If you’ve been following recent celebrity headlines, you know that actor Patrick Swayze was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While viewed as one of the most serious and deadliest forms of cancer, for Swayze, the prognosis is pretty good. Unfortunately, history has shown us that this is hardly the norm.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates there will be 37,680 new cases of pancreatic cancer in 2008 with 34,290 deaths in the U.S.; only five percent of patients live more than five years after being diagnosed. “Nationally, only about 20 percent of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed while the tumor is confined entirely within the pancreas."
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) is one institution working to improve pancreatic cancer’s detection and prevention. The facility carefully evaluates the extent of disease through advanced computed tomographic (CT) scanning and laparoscopy—a minimally invasive procedure. This evaluation allows for precise determination of the extent of the disease, facilitating appropriate, individualized therapy and avoiding unnecessarily extensive surgery. Patients are then treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy, alone or in combination.
Additionally, MSKCC docs have developed a contrast-enhanced, thin-cut, dynamic technique for scanning the pancreas that is highly accurate and easy to repeat. The technique reduces the amount of radiation required while improving diagnostic accuracy to levels approaching those of invasive procedures (such as angiography). “Traditionally, patients with pancreatic cancer have also needed exploratory surgery to determine whether surgical removal would be appropriate for their disease. But because pancreatic cancer is especially aggressive, many patients were found to have had advanced disease that would not benefit from surgical treatment. Patients would need to recover for six weeks after this exploratory surgery before beginning chemotherapy—an alternative treatment to surgery.”
MayoClinic provides a list of helpful signs and symptoms to aid in the early detection of pancreatic cancer:
Hopefully, with time, careful evaluation and prevention methods, we can beat the disease.
For more information on pancreatic cancer information, donations, or other ways to get involved, contact the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) at http://www.pancan.org.