Definition, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Definition of the diagnosis and the etiology

Most pancreatic cancers start in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas (Pancreatic cancer 2021).

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Cancer usually grows very slowly and finding and treating it before symptoms occur may not improve men's health or help them live longer.

Pancreatic cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of death in the United States. Pancreatic Cancer may originate in the pancreas or by the results of Metz from cancer of the lung, stomach, duodenum, or the common bile duct.

As cancer spreads, it may invade the stomach, duodenal wall, colon, and common bile duct (Gosnell & Cooper. 2018.P.1469).

While the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is still unknown at this current time.

Signs/Symptoms usually exhibited with this type/ stage of cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is evidenced in some patients by evidence of weight loss whether it be over a short period or long period of time along with jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and pruritus (itchy skin) (Pancreatic cancer 2021). The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are often missed because of other simple diagnoses at the time. The most common symptoms include nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and dull aching pain in the epigastrium (Pancreatic cancer 2021). However, most people are not symptomatic until cancer has spread to other parts of the body/organs.

Diagnostic tests are usually performed for the detection of this specific cancer

The diagnostic testing for pancreatic cancer is quite different from normal testing. Patients with suspected pancreatic cancer will undergo multiple different diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis.

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CT scans are often used to diagnose pancreatic cancer because they can see the pancreas clearly. A PET scan may then be performed to help see what stage cancer has developed to and gives doctors a better idea of what they have on their hands. It can also be used to see if cancer has spread to other parts of the body that wouldn't be treatable with surgery.

Once these have been performed the doctor will then send in orders to have the patient's CA19-9 marker checked this is to show them how the cancer is progressing if a patient has a high CA 19- 9 that means that the tumor is growing, or the cancer is spreading (Gosnell & Cooper. 2018.P.1470). However, lower numbers of CA 19-9 mean that the cancer is decreasing and that the tumors are shrinking (Gosnell & Cooper. 2018.P.1470). The doctor may also want to assess the patient's liver function because jaundice is often the first notable sign of pancreatic cancer.

Determination criteria for diagnosis

To determine if a patient has pancreatic cancer, then the above test results will be present for abnormalities or increased rates of cancer antigens in the blood. Once a patient has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the doctor will then perform a pancreatic ultrasound to determine the stage and to help best determine a treatment plan (Pancreatic cancer 2021).

Most of the time thou the doctor will want to do a biopsy on a small piece of tissue from the pancreas which just helps to identify the correct diagnosis (Pancreatic cancer prognosis & survival: Pancreatic cancer awareness | 2022).

My patient has T2-N1-M1 in this specific case meaning that the tumor is> 2 cm and no greater than 4 cm in the greatest dimension, can metastasize in 1- 3 regional lymph nodes, and has distant metastasis. Cancer may be any size and spread to the liver, lungs, and peritoneal cavity. With this specific diagnosis, the patient is in stage IV of pancreatic cancer meaning that treatment for him would be hard to diagnose due to finding cancer at a late stage.

Pharmacologic regimens are used in the treatment of this form of cancer

Once the doctor has determined the correct diagnosis and staging of the patient's cancer then they will begin to start a medication regimen for the patient in some patients' medications can be used to help with the spread of cancer. At this stage and being diagnosed so late the most common type of pharmacologic regimen is going to be chemotherapy to try and kill the cancer cells. Along with the chemotherapy, the doctor will likely prescribe medications and other treatments in combination.

Some of the medication options include Gemcitabine which in some patients can help to decrease the size of cancer (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019). Fluorouracil can be used to slow down or stop the spread of cancer (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019). A lot of times the doctors will prescribe those medications as a combination drug to increase the effectiveness of the medication on the body.

The doctors may also prescribe capecitabine to aid in helping with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body/ organs (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019). Along with those Erlotinib is used to block the action of any abnormal protein that signals cancer cells to multiply (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019). Irinotecan Liposomal is a different combination drug that is also used to help slow cancer from spreading and to treat cancer that has spread (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019).

With this patient's specific cancer and it already being stage four by the time of diagnosis it is very hard to cure and nearly Impossible. After doing research I have found that by that point doctors are primarily focused on slowing the progression in hopes that the patient has a better quality of life in the last few months to a year based on the diagnosis they should have.

Other regimens, alternative, or non-traditional treatments are used for the treatment of the specific diagnosis

People with cancer often experience distress which can lead to difficulty sleeping, and they find themselves constantly thinking about cancer. Some alternative treatments that people can use are acupuncture, massages, exercise, music therapy, and religious therapy (Pancreatic cancer 2021).

Another way that people try to cure pancreatic cancer is by changing their diets. Some patients think that if they eat fruits and vegetables, high fiber starches, lean proteins, and healthy fats they can treat cancer (Pancreatic cancer 2021). However, there is no research that this can cure cancer however it has been found to help with the symptoms that some patients experience.

Other patients will try and turn to religious treatment and holistic options however there are no known cases that have been truly cured by these types of methods. However, the best type of spiritual treatment for cancer is being on good terms with many members and friends as this is a very critical time for the patient and they need a lot of support.

Direct effects (and side effects) of the treatment plan on the patient and immediate family members/ partners

Chemo drugs are known for a lot of the side effects that they can cause a patient to have during treatment. Some of these side effects include nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, mouth sores, and constipation or diarrhea (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019). However, it can also cause problems within the cells of the bone marrow and increase the risk of infection, bleeding, or bruising (due to low platelets) (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019).

Along with the effects that these medications and treatments can have on the patient they also affect the family/ friends of the patient.

For the family of a patient that has been diagnosed with cancer, it can be very hard to watch someone that you love go through these things. Patients' family members also have a sense of despair because they don't know how or what to do to help the patient during the time. A lot of families will experience depression, struggles, a lot of ups and downs, and trials and tribulations. The direct family is always more impacted as they are there helping to take care of the person with cancer.

However not only does it impact everyone emotionally but also physically. Due to the person not being able to do things for themselves as easily as before the treatments the family also suffers physically, mentally, and financially. Since pancreatic cancer affects more men than it does women it often cuts back the family income and makes it harder for them to be able to make ends meet as the partner is normally trying to not only take care of them but also maintain a job.

General Prognosis

The general prognosis for patients with pancreatic cancers is typically not that very high. With pancreatic cancer, a lot of people don't know that they have cancer until it is already several stages in due to the signs/symptoms being so easily mistakable for other sicknesses.

On average, once a person finds out that they have pancreatic cancer they generally estimate that person to have around 5-12 months to live before they truly even know what stage they are in. The 5-year survival rate for a patient with stage 4 pancreatic cancer is roughly around 3%, however, this number only applies to patients when they are first diagnosed. (What is pancreatic cancer? 2019). Also, many other factors go into determining a person's survival rate and that also is based upon the patient's ca 19-9 factor.

A lot of research also states that a person who is diagnosed immediately with stage 4 pancreatic cancer they are at a way lower chance of time left and that amounts to about 3-6 months (Pancreatic cancer prognosis & survival: Pancreatic cancer awareness | 2022). This can also be based upon a person's willingness to help themselves some patients can change habits and have a few more opportunities to improve their quality of life. However, the best prognosis is found when the cancer is detected early in the beginning stages.

Possible Preventative Measures

The is no scientific way to prevent a person from getting any type of cancer however there are a few ways to help lower your chances. With my patient already being an African American man that already makes him a person that could potentially get pancreatic cancer as the rate is higher for them. However, my patient is also a heavy smoker, and that will almost double his rate of being susceptible to ending up with pancreatic cancer.

If my patient may have had more knowledge about different types of cancer and how his ethnicity affects his chances then maybe, he could have been more aware of the risks he was taking. Some of the possible preventative measures that he could have taken would have to not be a chronic heavy smoker. In general, people are going to make their own choices however if he would have smoked less then maybe that also could have helped him in the end.

Also, just in general people can decrease their risk for cancer by absenting from smoking, drinking, certain jobs, and chemicals that they are exposed Patients also can also lower chances by going to doctor appointments when they first notice that things are different with them.

Updated: Apr 12, 2023
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Definition, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer. (2023, Apr 12). Retrieved from

Definition, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer essay
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