Pancreatic Cancer Detection And Diagnosis – Digesting New Research

2009-03-15 | |
Last updated: 2009-03-15

Receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is generally very bad news as this cancer is one of the worst. People with this form of cancer show no symptoms of the condition in the early stages and in later stages, the symptoms look like those of many other diseases making it difficult to diagnose. The cancer is aggressive and for those diagnosed with the condition, the odds of surviving 5 years are very low; somewhere between 5% and 15%.

The pancreas is an almost flat organ that sits underneath the stomach and provides insulin and glucagon hormones to regulate blood sugar in addition to providing digestive enzymes to the intestines. When pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, surgery will be used to extract the cancerous growth from the pancreas, but only in cases where the cancer has not spread outside of the organ. Thus, it is very important to diagnose pancreatic cancer as early as possible to provide the best chances for survival.

With all the strong negatives associated with this disease, there is at least some good news in the form of research toward earlier and more accurate detection as well as one drug, at least, that is showing promise.

To enable earlier detection, a biomedical professor at Northwestern University is developing a technique that optically analyzes cells extracted from a portion of the small intestine near the pancreas. The cells are extracted using minimally invasive techniques or techniques that have minimal effects on the patient. At this stage, the technique is 95% accurate in identifying whether a patient has pancreatic cancer and the researchers continue to work to enable the technique to also identify precancerous cells.

Another interesting area of research in early detection comes from the Fox Chase Cancer Center where researchers are working to identify proteins found within pancreatic cysts that can identify whether or not the cyst is cancerous. This is important because cysts found within the pancreas may or may not be cancerous. The ability to identify the type of cyst means that oncologists and surgeons need not take a “wait and see” approach to determine if a cyst is cancerous and can instead take action as early as possible.

Once pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, surgery may be performed if the cancer is confined to the pancreas. Surgery has been considered the most effective option. Another recently added option for one type of pancreatic cancer is a new drug by the Pfizer pharmaceutical company. The drug, which inhibits tumor growth, looks promising because the late stage clinical trials were stopped based on those in the study taking the drug seeing considerable benefits.

While the odds of survival for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are still much lower than the odds for those diagnosed with many other cancers, researchers are actively working to increase these odds and seeing some success. We can only hope that the research findings can become reality as soon as possible.

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Category: Disease Information, Health Risks, Medical Research, Medical Treatment

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