Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in the pancreas begin to multiply and increase uncontrollably causing cancerous tumors to grow. The cancer can originate from the exocrine cells that create the enzymes and fluid that helps with digestion of food, or from the endocrine cells that release hormones to help control blood sugar. The wide majority of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages, and doctors often cannot diagnose it until it has begun to spread, making it the fourth deadliest cancer diagnosis. The 5-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer in all stages are low, making early detection and diagnosis absolutely crucial to the treatment process.
Although pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose in early stages, it is vital that doctors know the risk factors and the signs and symptoms of this cancer to increase the chance of an early diagnosis.
If your pancreatic cancer has been mishandled by a health care provider, contact our offices today for a free consultation.
Pancreatic Cancer Facts and Statistics
- An estimated 48,960 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2015, and over 40,560 will die from the disease.
- Pancreatic cancer is the 4th deadliest cancer diagnosis. It has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers and is expected to become the 2nd deadliest cancer by 2020.
- Nearly 94% of all people with pancreatic cancer will not survive more than 5 years after diagnosis.
- Men are about 30% more likely than women to develop pancreatic cancer
- If pancreatic cancer has already metastasized, or spread, by the time it is diagnosed, the average life expectancy is only 3 to 6 months
- Survival and recovery rates of pancreatic cancer have not improved much over the past 40 years.
- Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancer cases in the United States, and for about 7% of all cancer-related deaths.
- Pancreatic cancer is the 8th most common cancer in women.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Pancreatic cancer has few risk factors and symptoms that help doctors and patients detect signs of the disease early. Many of the risk factors and symptoms are attributable to other disease and conditions, making detection and diagnosis especially difficult.
Risk factors of pancreatic cancer include:
- Being over 55;- 90% of pancreatic cancer cases occur in people 55 and older
- Personal or family history of pancreatic inflammation and other diseases
- Smoking tobacco
- Having specific genetic conditions including Lynch syndrome, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), or familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM)
- Exposure to certain chemicals such as pesticides and some dyes
- Previous Hepatitis B infection (may double the risk of pancreatic cancer)
Pancreatic cancer seldom shows early symptoms, and when symptoms do show, they are similar to those of many other illnesses. Doctors should know the personal and family health history of their patients in order to recognize symptoms of pancreatic cancer and to be able to order the proper screening and diagnostic tests.
- Pain in the abdomen and back
- Unusual weight loss
- Change in color of stool and urine
- Loss of appetite
Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer
The first step in diagnosing pancreatic cancer is a full physical exam complete with the patient's entire personal and family health history. If pancreatic cancer is suspected, your doctor will take blood tests, CT or MRI scans, ultrasounds, and may also take a biopsy, or tissue sample to determine if pancreatic cancer is viable diagnosis.
Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Before any treatment plan is made, doctors will need to assess the placement, size, and stage of the cancerous tumor. Pancreatic cancer treatments may involve surgeries to remove tumors or parts of the pancreas, radiation or chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells, or other interventions, including drug-targeted therapy to attack cancer cells.
Malpractice in Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer turns deadly quickly without an immediate diagnosis and prompt treatment. Although doctors may not always be able to diagnose pancreatic cancer immediately, they should be diligent in their diagnostic and screening processes. Negligence in diagnosing and managing pancreatic cancer may give rise to a medical malpractice claim. However, these cases are extremely difficult given the difficulty in diagnosing the disease process and the general mortality associated with pancreatic cancer.
Since pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in advanced stages, treatments are often difficult, emotionally taxing and expensive. If you beleive your doctor mishandled your pancreatic cancer diagnosis, contact the offices of Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.