I’m Afraid I Might Have Pancreatic Cancer…

While other types of cancers are declining, pancreatic cancer is on the rise—and is now the fourth leading cancer in both men and women.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 60,430 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and about 48,220 will die from the disease.

Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the pancreas. Fortunately, it is curable if detected early. But it also tends to be a quickly progressive disease; the average time for Stage 1 pancreatic cancer to develop into Stage 4 if left untreated is only a year. This is another reason that early detection is critical.

Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer in its early stages may not present any signs or symptoms. By the time patients feel symptoms, the tumor has often already grown quite large or cancer cells have spread beyond the pancreas. Here are signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer to be aware of:

  • Belly or back pain
  • Diabetes
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged gallbladder
  • Jaundice
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

Causes and Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Unfortunately, there are some risk factors for pancreatic cancer that are beyond the control of the patient. These include:

  • Age: Most patients with pancreatic cancer are older than 45; the average age at diagnosis is 70 years old.
  • Gender: Studies show that men are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women.
  • Genetic disposition: People with a family history of some genetic syndromes are at higher risk for pancreatic cancer. These syndromes include hereditary ovarian cancer, breast cancer, pancreatitis, Lynch syndrome and atypical multiple mole melanoma syndromes.
  • Race: Compared to white patients, Black men and women have shown higher rates for the disease. The reasons for this are yet understood.

Other risk factors for pancreatic cancer include lifestyle choices that can be modified, like:

  • Tobacco smoking: Smoking cigarettes has been recognized as one of the major risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
  • Obesity: Being overweight may lead to Type-2 diabetes, a major contributing factor to pancreatic cancer.
  • Type-2 diabetes: Studies have shown that diabetic patients are twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-diabetic people.
  • Heavy alcohol use: Heavy alcohol consumption may lead to pancreatitis, increasing the risk for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Options

If you are diagnosed, you can discuss your best treatment options with your physician and various specialists. The most viable treatment for your cancer will depend, in part, on which type of cancer you have:

  • Resectable
  • Borderline resectable
  • Locally advanced
  • Metastatic
  • Recurrent

 The most common types of pancreatic cancer treatment include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Chemoradiation
  • Radiation therapy
  • CyberKnife
  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy

Understanding CyberKnife as a Treatment Option

Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology offers state-of-the-art technology in pancreatic cancer treatment that is typically only available at more extensive academic medical facilities across the country.

Our CyberKnife System represents the next generation of radiosurgery systems, treating your cancer without surgery or pain. Using intelligent robotics, CyberKnife combines continual image-guidance technology with a compact linear accelerator. Unlike traditional radiosurgery systems, the CyberKnife System has no limitations in mobility and has increased flexibility to treat tumors throughout the body. It also minimizes the delivery of radiation to healthy tissue and vital organs.

The CyberKnife procedure requires no anesthesia, can be performed on an outpatient basis and allows for the treatment of patients that otherwise would not have been treated with radiation or who may not have been good candidates for surgery. 

Contact us at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about your pancreatic cancer treatment options. We have multiple facilities in Tampa Bay, including Tampa, Brandon, Wesley Chapel and Sun City Center, to make your treatment convenient. And more than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.