Debunking the common myths of pancreatic cancer and listing the facts that you need to know.
Pancreatic cancer is a condition that occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of your pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that is located behind the lower part of your stomach, within your abdomen. This organ secretes enzymes to help in proper digestion of the food you eat, and hormones that are responsible for regulating the metabolism of sugars in your body. People who develop pancreatic cancer may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, jaundice, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. In the initial stages, pancreatic cancer tends to be painless with very few signs and symptoms, resulting in a delayed prognosis. However, this cancer often spreads in a rapid manner even before it is detected in a person, which is a major reason why pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths. In fact, it has been estimated that pancreatic cancer will become the second most deadly cancer by the year 2025 (the first being lung cancer).
Pancreatic cancer is a life-threatening condition which isn’t quite widely understood as compared to some other cancers, unless a person is suffering from the condition or has a loved one with the disease. In addition, owing to the fact that famous people like Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, and former US President Jimmy Carter were diagnosed with this disease, people often form their own ideas about pancreatic cancer. However, believing in such misconceptions can lead to confusion and panic about the disorder, and that’s why it is important that you know the truth about the disease, its symptoms, and treatment options. Here are eight of the most common myths and misconceptions about pancreatic cancer, and the facts behind them.
Myth # 1: Pancreatic cancer is of only one type.
This misconception is owing to the fact that as many as 95 percent of all pancreatic cancers starts in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. These cells are also known as adenocarcinoma, and they are a part of the exocrine portion of your pancreas. The adenocarcinoma play an important role in producing enzymes in your body, which aid in digestion. However, there is another type of pancreatic cancer, which is a much rarer form of the disease. This kind, which is known as islet-cell pancreatic cancer, develops from the endocrine gland. The tumors develop in the pancreas itself, and are called neuroendocrine tumors. Such tumors affect the hormone-producing cells in your body that produce insulin. However, this kind of tumor is often benign (non-cancerous), and it makes for only 5 percent of pancreatic cancers.
Myth # 2: Pancreatic cancer is always fatal.
This is not true. Contrary to popular perception, pancreatic cancer is a treatable disease, with early prognosis increasing the probability of a successful treatment. Since this type of cancer is often not detected early and can be aggressive in its progress, in many cases it often goes undetected till it has advanced to a considerable extent. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer may not be visible in an affected person in the early stages, making treatment difficult. But this in no way means that every person with pancreatic cancer faces early and imminent death. There has been significant advancement in the area of pancreatic cancer treatment, and new trials are being conducted every day for the successful treatment of advanced-staged pancreatic cancer. Some of the most used treatment options for this disease include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and combinations of these therapies.
Myth # 3: People with pancreatic cancer who undergo radiation therapy could be a risk to others.
This is another misconception about pancreatic cancer that is the result of the lack of information and knowledge regarding the disease among the general public. If a person is suffering from pancreatic cancer and undergoing radiation therapy as part of the treatment plan, it does not mean that he/she has become a potential risk for others’ health. The types of radiation therapy that are used commonly to treat pancreatic cancer patients do not make a person radioactive. Nevertheless, if you are undergoing such treatment (particularly if radioactive iodine is being administered to you), ensure that you follow the safety precautions recommended by the doctor.
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