Pancreatic Cancer Treatment in India - Problems in early detection and treatment failures render pancreatic cancer a gloomy prognosis
The pancreas is a long leaf shaped organ, almost resembling a flattened obelisk. The broad end is called the head, the tapering point called the tail and the intervening part called the neck and body. It lies transversely in front of the spine in the abdomen. The head end is situated on the right side and the tail on the left, touching the spleen. The common bile duct runs through the head, on its way from the liver to the intestines. The pancreas produces a plethora of digestive enzymes which are secreted into the gut. In addition, it produces the hormone insulin, the lack of which causes diabetes mellitus.
The most common cancer that arises in the pancreas is the adenocarcinoma, which carries the worst prognosis. The main risk factors are smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity and diabetes mellitus. There is also a strong relation to chronic pancreatitis and a family history of cancer. Hence this cancer can be guarded against by lifestyle modifications, such as cessation of smoking, change in drinking habits, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
Signs and symptoms
If successful, it carries a 5 year survival rate of 20 per cent, which means that 20 per cent of patients are likely to live more than 5 years. The average survival of these patients is 19 months. If the tumour is in the mid-part or body of pancreas, it is rarely operable, but sometimes a total pancreatectomy or removal of whole pancreas can be done. For cancers in the tail of the pancreas, a distal pancreatectomy operation with removal of the spleen is done.
Of all the patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, 80 per cent are inoperable at diagnosis. Surgery is also not a guarantee of cure. Thus it is apparent that treatment options for this disease are limited, even when detected relatively early. Research is ongoing to find better options. As of now, it appears that prevention is better than cure, and therein lies the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
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