Only 6% of people with pancreatic cancer
survive past 5 years


What are Pancreatic Cancers?

Pancreatic Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases currently operating in the world today. While it is relatively rare compared to other forms of cancer, the prognosis can often be quite dire for those that suffer from it. This unfortunate fact can even hold true in cases in which the cancer is diagnosed and treated early in its development, although such a situation can benefit the outlook of the disease when compared to its later stages. Pancreatic Cancers typically spread rapidly from their point of origin and are rarely discovered in their earliest stages. There are two major types of Pancreatic Cancer: Exocrine Tumors and Endocrine Tumors. Both types will be discussed thoroughly below.

Pancreatic Cancer is comprised of tumors found in or near the pancreatic region of the body. The pancreas is a 6-inch long organ that can be found behind the stomach in the back of the abdomen. Its function in the body is essential: it secretes hormones and sends them to glands in order to perform routine body functions like digesting fat and protein, spreading oxygen to the body, and producing excitatory hormones like dopamine and adrenaline. Pancreatic Cancer involves the uncontrollable growth of pancreatic cells that form tumors that impede the normal functioning of the pancreas and its satellite organs.

Lets begin by going through the specifics of each type of Pancreatic Cancer as highlighted above. The graph below reveals the prominence of the 2 different types of Pancreatic Cancers relative to each other. The clear leader is Exocrine Tumors, with Endocrine Tumors coving a tiny fraction of total Pancreatic Cancer cases.

Exocrine Tumors Endocrine Tumors

Exocrine Cancers

Exocrine Tumors are easily the most common form of Pancreatic Cancers. Because of this, a diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer is almost always referring to this specific type of tumor. Formulating a working knowledge of the differences between Exocrine and Endocrine Tumors is important due to the differences in prognosis and methods of treatment that each subset of the disease demands.

The exocrine glands are responsible for the creation of substances which contain enzymes that help digest food in the body. If these glands did not exist, the body would have a difficult time extracting energy from the food that passes through its systems. The enzymes that are created get released into tubes called ducts. These tiny ducts merge to form larger ducts, which eventually empty into the pancreatic duct. The tumors created by Exocrine Cancers block these passageways, restricting and sometimes even completely cutting off the flow of these tubes, which hinders the ability of certain organs to function properly due to the lack of necessary enzymes and hormones.

The thing that makes Exocrine Cancers so deadly is the fact that they are often connected to virtually every single major system in the body. Recall that the enzymes and hormones produced by the pancreas travel to other orgnas to make them function. This provides the malignant tumors access to these organs, which is a primary reason why it is able to metastasize (spread) so quickly.

Additionally, Exocrine Cancers are often rather difficult to detect before they develop advanced stages. This is, at least in part, due to the fast rate of metastasis that the disease has when compared to other forms of cancer. This is something that can make effective treatment a challenge.

Endocrine Cancer

Endocrine Tumors occur significantly less than Exocrine Tumors largely because only about 5% of the cells in the pancreas are Enteroendocrine (Endocrine) Cells. While Exocrine Tumors are known for spreading to other systems in the body, Endocrine Tumors are typically only able to spread within the pancreas itself, thus limiting the mortality rate of this disease significantly.

Another key distinction that can be formed between Endocrine and Exocrine tumors is the severity of the symptoms experienced by the patient. Exocrine Cancers, as stated above, can often affect the entire body, resulting in symptoms that encompass traits such as yellow skin and eyes, fluid in the abdomen, extreme weight loss, and dark urine. Endocrine Cancers, conversely, often involve symptoms that are more related to moods and feelings. This can include things such as irritability, depression, anxiety, and changes in bodily habits.

Advancements in Treatment

The perpetual improvements in science and technology that have been observed over the past couple of decades have provided us with tremendous breakthroughs in the research and treatment of Pancreatic Cancers. This is something that has placed the mortality rates resulting from Pancreatic Cancer in freefall since the early 1990s. Take a look at the graph below to see the specifics:

Number of deaths per 100,000 people

Why the Decrease?

The decrease demonstrated above is indicative of the massive strides that humanity as a whole has taken in improving the availability and effectivenss of advanced medical techniques. Outlined below are some of the types of doctors that have been involved in facilitating such techninques as well as the scientific breakthroughs that have made them possible.

Medical Staff

The first thing that is done when a patient is diagnosed with any form of Pancreatic Cancer is the creation of a medical team with talents that are specific to the severity and type of cancer being treated. There are a total of 3 specialized doctors that typically work with Pancreatic Cancers.

The first, and perhaps most fundemental specialist is the Oncologist. The oncologist is a general cancer doctor that establishes the optimal treatment roadmap for the patient. Next is the endocrinologist, who specializes in the treatment of the glands that secrete hormones. While this doctor is not always involved in treatment, it is not uncommon for them to be brought in to assist with the diagnosis and prognosis assessment of the patient in question. There is typically also a surgeon on the patient's medical team who assists in removing the tumor manually if other forms of treatment fail or are not necessary.

Depending on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, treatment options for Pancreatic Cancer can include: Palliative Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other clinical trials of new cancer-reducing medicines. Sometimes, more than one of type of treatment might be used. In choosing which treatment plan is best for the patient, some important factors to consider include: the location and stage of the cancer, the patient's overall health, the chances of curing the disease, and the possible impact of the treatment on the pancreas.

Palliative Surgery

Palliative Surgery is less of a treament method and more of a way of managing pain so that other treatment methods may be employed. That said, recent medical advancements have increased the effectiveness of this option and in doing so have supported the comfort and happiness of thousands of patients around the globe. It typically involves the removal of an intestinal obstruction or other masses that are causing pain or disfigurement in the patient.

Palliative surgery in the pancreas usually involves the unblocking of the pancreatic ducts. While this means that the tumor is not completely gone, the removal of such obstructions does pave the way for more effective treatments such as radiation and chemo based therapies. Recent advancements in technologies have done much to make such surgeries more effective and long lasting, and in doing so have resulted in more comfortable situations for patients everywhere.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External Beam Radiation Therapy is a subset of radiation therapy that is employed to reduce the size of or remove certain tumors. It is used in cancers of the pancreas due to the targeted nature of the treatment. Recent advancements in medical technologies have done much to reduce the negative side efects of such treatments while also bolstering their effectiveness.

Treatments such as this are revolutionary due to the relative lack of intrusion that they impress upon the patient in order to get a meaningful result. External Beam Radiation Therapy is all but painless and never involves placing radioactive materials inside the patient's body. This makes the therapy a terrific option for those who wish to achieve effective treament without having to endure a painful medical procedure.

External Beam Radiation Therapy is also useful in cases when the cancer has spread from the pancreas to other parts of the body. In these cases, the therapy is typically employed to halt the advance of the cancer rather than remove it completely, a role for which it is almost uniquely suited to be successful.

How to Help

While the efforts and achievements of medical professionals over the past 2 decades have been remarkable and are worthy of extensive praise, Pancreatic Cancer remains at large as one of the largest contributers of cancer-related deaths each year. In order to further developments in regards to the eradication of this terrible disease, the public must direct their attention towards the research efforts that are being made to confront the problem. All of the organizations listed below stand as fantastic resources to do exactly that.

The Lustgarten Foundation

The Lustgarten Foundation is an organization that has tirelessly dedicated itself to the eradication of Pancreatic Cancers. They pursue this goal on 2 equally important fronts: increasing public awareness of the issue of Pancreatic Cancer and what the average person can do to help, and working to ensure that proper funding is allocated to the research and development of effective new treatments that are specific to the disease.

The foundation maintains a high degree of intellectual credibility by establishing a strict set of guidelines that dictate the standards that must be met to receive their recognition. Financial transparency is also important to them, and as such they archive the institutes and individuals that recieve money from them so that such information is available to the public.

Numerous awards have ben given to the Lustgarten Foundation for their unmatched impact on the lives of individual patients and for their contribution to the larger field of Pancreatic Cancers as a whole. They are one of the few charitable organizations currently operating on the planet to recieve a Charity Navigator rating of over 99 points, something that ensures that every dollar allocated to them is spent in a manner that is consistent with the needs of Pancreatic Cancer patients. You can click the button below to join them in this fight and to make sure the issue of Pancreatic Cancers becomes one of the past.


The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a foundation based in California that has comitted itself to not only increasing public awareness of Pancreatic Cancer, but also helping to connect and assist families who have been intimately affected by the disease.

The foundation prides itself on tirelessly vetting potential grant recipients to find the facilities that will make the best use of the money. To date, The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has provided over 28 million dollars to such institutions, and in doing so has saved and improved thousands of lives. Their mission extends beyond patient services to take care of the families of those affected by Pancreatic Cancer. In accordance with this, the foundation prides itself on having served over 90,000 families across the nation since its founding in 1999.

All of this has been achieved while maintaining a tremendous degree of financial transparency. In fact, they have been awarded the top score of 100 on Charity Navigator, something that ensures that all of their financial maneuverings are available to be scrutinized by the public as necessary. You can click the button below to join them in their fight to better conditions for Pancreatic Cancer patients and their families.


Fight At No Cost

In order to succeed in the fight for life we must join together and connect. Through social media, the sharing of stories, and advancement in research we, together, have the opportunity to beat Pancreatic Cancer.

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