Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers. But it can be treated successfully if diagnosed early and treated aggressively. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case; pancreatic cancer often has no symptoms until it is too late to treat effectively. Still, when diagnosis does happen early enough, the survival rate is high—provided patients receive proper treatment. Unfortunately, treatments for this aggressive disease are complicated and sometimes unproven. If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or think you might have it based on symptoms such as unexplained weight loss or jaundice (yellowing of skin), these tips will help you decide what to do next:
Make sure it was really pancreatic cancer.
Make sure it was really pancreatic cancer.
The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is usually made based on a combination of imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans. These may show an abnormality in the pancreas or nearby organs, which could be a tumor or another type of mass that can cause signs and symptoms like yours. If you have had any imaging tests performed already and no abnormal areas were found in your pancreas or stomach area, then this may rule out the possibility of having pancreatic cancer. Also ask your doctor about whether he or she has used appropriate methods for making a diagnosis that would be considered correct by other doctors with similar training (for example: pathologists). If your doctor has not done these things when making their diagnosis but still insists that you do have this disease, then you should discuss getting a second opinion from another doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating this disease before agreeing to treat yourself according to his/her advice.
Get a second opinion.
If you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and unsure about the best course of action. Asking for a second opinion is one of those things that can make an enormous difference in your treatment journey.
You might want to ask your doctor if they recommend getting another opinion from another specialist or hospital. Your doctor may even offer to send your test results and medical files to another hospital so that they can give you their opinion. Alternatively, if available and appropriate for your situation, consider seeking out a second opinion from a different country altogether (for example: Canada). Finally, if all else fails and there are no other options for obtaining a second opinion locally or abroad on short notice then consider asking someone else who knows their way around medical systems such as pathologists or nurses who specialize in this area of practice—these individuals can likely find someone qualified willing enough without too much difficulty!
Study your pathology report in detail.
If your doctor has given you a pathology report, this is the time to study it in detail. First of all, what is a pathology report? A pathology report tells the pathologists (the doctors who examined your tumor) how they diagnosed the cancer and what they found inside it. If you have pancreatic cancer, your doctor will review this information with you and explain how it affects your treatment plan.
The first thing to look at on the pathology report is whether or not your tumor has spread beyond the pancreas into other organs in your body—this is called metastasis or metastatic disease. It’s also important to see which stage of cancer you have: early-stage (low), intermediate-stage (intermediate), or late-stage (high). The stage of cancer can help decide if surgery for removal of just part of the liver is needed—or whether surgery might be impossible because there isn’t enough healthy tissue left after all that’s been removed from surrounding areas due to metastasis from pancreatic tumors containing deadly cells called neuroendocrine neoplasms (NETs). Your doctors may also try various forms of chemotherapy before surgery as well as gene therapy—or even immunotherapy if possible!
Ask for tests to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the pancreas.
Tests to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the pancreas include:
- CT scan. A type of x-ray that makes detailed images of structures inside the body, particularly bone and soft tissues.
- MRI. A noninvasive procedure that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to make pictures of organs and structures within the body in detail.
- PET scan (positron emission tomography). A medical imaging test in which special dyes are injected into your vein that attach themselves to cancer cells or other abnormal tissue in your body. Then a special camera takes pictures as these cells become active during normal functioning or after you’ve taken a drug (tracer) used as part of this procedure so doctors can see where they’re located in your body and what kind(s) there are—or if any have spread outside their original locations—and whether treatment is working well enough for you at any given time point since starting on treatment
Get answers to these questions, because they will determine your treatment options.
Now that you have a diagnosis, you need to learn more.
- What treatment options are available? Your healthcare team should discuss the different ways they can treat pancreatic cancer. This includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. You may also want to ask about clinical trials that could be right for you and how participating in them might help others down the road.
- What is my prognosis with this type of cancer? Having a better idea of how long you may live with pancreatic cancer will help guide your decisions about treatment options and plans for life after treatment ends.
- How will each option affect my day-to-day life? Some treatments cause side effects like fatigue or nausea; others require lifestyle changes like losing weight before surgery or adjusting your diet once back home from hospitalization (if needed). Knowing what lies ahead can help ease anxiety as well as prepare yourself physically and mentally for it all.
What is the stage of my cancer?
The stage of your cancer is an important factor in determining treatment options. It also helps doctors predict how the disease will behave and if it is likely to spread to other parts of the body. The stage of pancreatic cancer is based on two factors: how much the tumor has grown (size), and where it has spread.
Stage 1: confined to the pancreas
Stage 2: spread beyond the pancreas but still confined within nearby organs or tissues (for example, lymph nodes or liver)
Stage 3: spread outside nearby organs or tissues (for example, lymph nodes or liver)
Has it spread?
Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the pancreas. The pancreas is a small organ located behind the stomach and liver. If you have pancreatic cancer, your doctor will do tests to find out if it has spread from its original location in your body. Cancer cells can also spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of your body. This process is called metastasis.
How fast is it growing?
How fast is it growing?
If your tumor has been diagnosed as being slow-growing, you’re in luck. Slow-growing tumors are less likely to spread than fast-growing tumors. Your doctor will be able to tell you how big the tumor is and whether it is growing quickly or slowly.
In general, more aggressive cancers are more likely to spread than less aggressive ones. If you have a high-grade tumor (low grade tumors tend not to spread), this increases your risk of having cancer that spreads either locally or regionally throughout the rest of the body (the medical term for this is metastasis).
Is the tumor resectable?
You may be asked to have a CT scan or MRI to determine whether your tumor is resectable. Surgery is often the best treatment for early stage pancreatic cancer, so it’s important that you work with your surgeon and medical team to find out whether your tumor is eligible for surgery.
If surgery isn’t an option, chemotherapy can still help prolong your life and manage symptoms like pain, nausea and vomiting caused by pancreatic cancer.
Ask what your chance of cure would be if surgery were attempted.
Your surgeon will give you an idea of the odds of curing your cancer based on the stage and grade of your tumor, but this is a place to be cautious. When considering surgery, it’s important to understand that even if they remove all visible cancer cells during surgery, new malignant cells can start growing in other parts of the pancreas or nearby areas like lymph nodes.
The best way to know what your prognosis is with chemotherapy is to ask how long it takes most patients with similar cases and conditions as yours recover from their treatment. The doctor may give you an average amount of time (such as 6 months) or a range (such as 3-9 months).
If no surgery is possible, request a referral to an oncologist, preferably one who specializes in cases like yours.
If your doctor recommends that surgery be delayed for some reason, ask for a referral to an oncologist, preferably one who specializes in cases like yours. These specialists will help determine whether your cancer is treatable and if so, which treatment options are most likely to be effective. They may also suggest chemotherapy or radiation therapy as part of your treatment plan.
The best way to improve your odds of beating pancreatic cancer is to get a diagnosis as early as possible and pursue standard medical treatments.
If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the first step to continuing your treatment is to get a second opinion from a specialist who has experience treating this type of cancer. There are many different types of treatments for pancreatic cancer, and each one has its pros and cons. The best treatment will depend on the stage of your disease at diagnosis, as well as other factors such as whether or not you have other health conditions that may complicate things (for example: diabetes). It’s important to find someone who can give you as much information about all available options as possible so that you can make an informed decision about which option is best for YOU!
Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do as a patient to help your doctors find the best treatment for you. If you’re diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, be sure to ask them about all of your treatment options, including surgery and radiation therapy. If surgery isn’t an option, make sure they refer you to an oncologist who has experience treating this particular type of cancer so they can help guide your care through chemotherapy or other types of medicines.