ancer is defined as growth and development of malformed or abnormal cells in the body. Cancer can take many forms an attack many organs and tissues in the body. Pancreatic cancer is a cancer of the pancreas, located just behind the lower portion of the stomach. This organ is responsible for aiding digestion and secretion of hormones that regulate metabolism of sugar. Pancreatic cancer can spread very quickly, which is why diagnosis in its early stages is especially important.
Specific treatments for pancreatic cancer are determined by the stage the cancer is in when diagnosed, and the health and age of the individual diagnosed. The goal of any cancer treatment is to reduce or eliminate the cancer and prevent it from spreading to other body organs.
Surgery - Surgery is often recommended for removal of portions of the pancreas when the disease process has not spread to nearby organs. One of the most common types of surgery for pancreatic cancer located at the top or head of the pancreas is called a Whipple procedure. This type of surgery removes the upper portion of the pancreas and a part of the small intestine, the gall bladder, and the bile duct. A portion of the stomach may be removed as well.
Surgery for tumors or cancers found in the lower part of the pancreas is called a distal pancreatectomy, which includes from the removal of the lower portion of the pancreas and the spleen.
In some cases, a patient may need the entire pancreas removed in a procedure called a total pancreatectomy, which removes the entire pancreas, the gall bladder, spleen, portions of the small intestine and stomach, the common bile duct, and nearby lymph nodes.
Radiation Therapy - Radiation therapy utilizes the use of high energy beams to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used before and after pancreatic surgery. Radiation therapy is performed either from outside the body (external beam radiation) or from inside the body through the use of radioactive pellets in a procedure called brachytherapy.
Chemotherapy - Drugs delivered from outside the body through IV infusion designed to kill cancer cells.
In some cases, and depending on severity of the cancer, a doctor specializing in cancer treatment called an oncologist may decide to combine all three treatments; surgery, radiation and chemotherapy together.
Targeted Drug Therapy - A relatively new method of treating cancer, targeted drugs are designed to attack specific abnormalities or malformations found in cancer cells. The most common drug therapy uses Tarceva (generic term erlotinib), designed to block signals to grow and divide. Another drug currently involved in clinical trials is Erbitux (generic term cetuximab).
While various therapies may cause unpleasant side effects in many people, positive results are often enjoyed through the use of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients. When caught early enough, cancer treatments encourage eradication of tumors and cancerous tissues and may increase positive prognosis.
Cancer treatment of any kind is expensive. Drug therapies in the United States may cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 a month depending on the drug and intake method. The average cost for pancreatic cancer patients is determined by the need as well as location or type of surgical procedure, and whether a not radiation, chemotherapy or combinations are required. In the United States, the cost of a Whipple procedure alone averages $40,000 or more, depending on geographical location. However, international travelers may save up to 50% on costs of similar surgical procedures and drug treatment therapies.
When looking for a doctor to help treat cancer, patients should look for cancer specialists. These specialists are trained in the field of oncology. Patients should look for experience, training, and that the specialist of their choice has been board-certified in specific areas of medicine. The physician who is board-certified in medical oncology or surgery will ensure their qualifications in their field.
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