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  • Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month: A difficult diagnosis
    Added by My Identity Doctor
    Two years ago for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, I shared my friend Tara and her mom Lori’s story. While today’s article will be more about the facts of pancreatic cancer, please read their story to understand the impact of pancreatic cancer on those living with this difficult type of cancer and their families. 
    The pancreas is a digestive organ that a lot of people don’t know much about until something goes wrong. Next Tuesday, November 13, is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day. The pancreas produces enzymes that help digest food, as well as insulin, which keeps blood glucose levels under control. When a tumour develops in the pancreas, known as pancreatic cancer, these processes get disrupted and cause symptoms often related to digestion.
    male doctor cartoon holding clipboard on blue backdrop, large picture showing photo of digestive system to right in box with white background
    What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
    Pancreatic cancer is a notoriously difficult diagnosis to make. Early on, there are rarely symptoms to point to pancreatic cancer, meaning by the time it is diagnosed, the tumour may already be large, difficult to remove, or have spread to other areas of the body. [1]
    Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include [1]:
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin) as the bile duct from the liver becomes blocked
    • Other signs of liver problems caused by this blockage, including dark urine, light coloured or “greasy” looking stools, and itchy skin.   Enlargement of the gallbladder (which stores bile produced by the liver) and the liver.
    • Poor appetite and weight loss; abnormalities in the fatty tissue in the body as fats cannot be properly digested
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Pain in the abdomen (belly) or back
    • Blood clots
    • Diabetes, when insulin making cells are destroyed by cancer.
    How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
    Imaging scans and biopsies of the tumour will be taken to determine if it is malignant (cancerous) or benign. Blood tests and imaging scans will help determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. [2]
    How is pancreatic cancer treated?
    Depending on where the tumour is located, surgery may be performed to remove the tumour or decrease its size to allow chemotherapy or radiation therapy to work better—other times, chemo or radiation therapy may be given first to make surgery more successful. Sometimes both strategies are used. In some cases, surgery will be performed to remove the entire pancreas, although this requires a major lifestyle adjustment to taking insulin and enzymes for the rest of your life. [2]
    Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often used before and after surgery, or in some cases can be used alone. Radiation and chemotherapy can be used together or separately. Sometimes, clinical trials are available to help increase chances of survival, and further scientific advancements of treating cancer. [2]
    Palliative care can be given for symptom management, either from the cancer itself or its treatments. Palliative care does not mean the cancer is terminal—it can include use of anti-nausea medicines, therapy, and other strategies to make living with cancer easier on you and your family. While hospice or end of life care also include palliative care elements, they are not one-in-the-same. [2]
    Medical ID jewelry for cancer
    If you have pancreatic cancer, it is important to wear cancer medical ID jewelry, especially if you are a part of a clinical trial. Clinical Trial medical ID jewelry can ensure the study doctor or drug company can be contacted for additional information if needed. Chemotherapy medical ID jewelry can also help those taking care of you know to take extra precautions, such as against infections. Customizable pancreatic cancer medical ID jewelry is available from My Identity Doctor.
    Published by My Identity Doctor on November 9, 2018


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