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Pancreatic Cancer: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Oct 31, 2019

What is the treatment?

Pancreatic cancer from the name itself means that there are cancer cells in the pancreas of your body. Pancreas in your body releases certain enzymes which help to break down food content in your body. Pancreas also helps to manage the blood sugar content of the body. Any form of cancer if left unrecognized or untreated can spread all over the body. The same goes for the pancreatic cancer as well. If you have anyone in your family tree who are known to have any form of pancreatic cyst or cancer you should also be cautious and seek help for screening of the cancer. Some signs of pancreatic cancer are diabetes, weight loss and during pancreatic cancer you can also face jaundice pain in the upper abdomen which gradually might spread to the back. Till this day, it has not been specified that exactly what causes the pancreatic cancer. However, research shows that unhealthy diet, smoking etc. would increase your chances to have pancreatic cancer. Any form of cancer restricts the body to form new white blood cells (WBCs). Thus, when there is a cancer in the pancreas, your pancreas fails to secrete and produce enzymes which are essential for your body.

How is the treatment done?

As pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect in earlier stages the treatment procedure requires a lot of tests such as tumor maker test (where a sample of blood or urine is collected and searches for possible tumors associated with the pancreas). Medical experts also use abdominal ultrasound to search for tumors of pancreatic cancer which are also similar to that of the functioning of sonograms. If tumors are detected for pancreatic cancer then a laproscopy test is also required to find out the extent of the cancer stage. The treatment procedure for pancreatic cancer may involve surgeries in order to remove the cancer. If the tumor is in its earlier stage then having a surgery may sometimes spread the cancer in your blood stream. Therefore, in earlier stages you can opt for ablation (a process by which the tumor can be removed by radio frequencies without surgery). During surgeries, an incision is made in the abdominal area and then inserts medical instruments and cameras to detect the location of the cancer tumor. This is also known as biopsy samples to learn the extent of the cancer spread in the body. There is also a system of whipple procedure which involves removal of the head of the pancreas and attaching it with the intestines so that now the enzymes which are produced can pass through your digestive system without causing trouble.

Who is eligible for the treatment?

Usually it is difficult to detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage as the symptoms coincide with symptoms of many other diseases. You need to start your treatment when you detect unintentional weight loss, fatigue, belly/abdominal pain which might spread to your back. The other symptoms for pancreatic cancer may involve loss of appetite, depression and blood clots in your body. Other common symptom for pancreatic cancer involves yellowing of skin and also yellowing of the whites of your eyes. If you already have diabetic problems then you need to be cautious and consult your medical expert as soon as possible because diabetes problems may lead to pancreatic disorders or pancreatic cancer as well.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

If you have a low immune system then your medical expert will probably advise you to not take up therapies in earlier stages and try to remove the cancer cells by surgery or ablation. The treatment procedure depends on person to person therefore if there is a chance that by surgery the cancer can spread in the blood stream or over the whole body then your medical expert will opt for ablation (removal of cancer cells/tumors without surgery through radiofrequency systems) or the medical expert would advise you to go for therapies such as chemotherapies or radiation therapies.

Are there any side effects?

The treatment procedure for pancreatic cancer may have some side effects to it. The side effects depend from person to person, where some might face side effects and some might not. The treatment of pancreatic cancer requires therapies like radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These therapies might have some side effects like nausea, tiredness, losing hairline and easy bruising and bleeding. For a temporary period of time you might have anemia (which involves low red blood cell counts). Some other side effects involve certain appetite changes and constipation as well.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

As cancer may not be fully remediated, therefore you need to maintain periodic checkups with your medical expert and continue having tests in order to keep a check on the cancer cells as they might rejuvenate if the treatment is not carried out properly. Other post treatment guidelines include quitting smoking and drinking. Also, you should maintain a healthy and nutritious diet; you should eat healthy and eat less but eat throughout the day. Always stay hydrated and you should aim to drink at least 64 ounces of fluids every day. You should also chose foods that are easy to digest as the pancreas now may not digest food efficiently for a certain period of time.

How long does it take to recover?

If you had a pancreatic surgery then you need ample recovery time and you also need to maintain the post treatment guidelines. Full recovery from pancreatic cancer surgery takes about two months (approximately). Depending on the type of operation and the condition that you are in, you need ample rests and a healthy diet. With proper medication, you need to monitor whether there are any signs of rejuvenation of the cancer cells. With proper treatment, you can expect to be cured within three months. For full support of your treatment you need to keep in touch with your medical expert whenever necessary.

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What is the price of the treatment in India?

Cancer requires a hefty amount of treatment costs when a surgery is involved. The price range also depends from person to person according to the stages of the cancer. Stage 1 patients may incur their costs including medicines and therapies range from Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 1,50,000 (annually). Stage 2 patients range from Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1,80,000 (annually). And stage 3 cancer patients incur costs up to Rs. 2,50,000 (annually). The cost of surgeries usually range from Rs. 65,000 to Rs. 1,10,000. There are other additional costs of medicines for pancreatic cancer which approximately range from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 4,000 (approximately) monthly.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Till date there has been no proven research that cancer can be fully cured. Cancer cannot be fully remediated but it can be kept to a safe level with proper monitoring. However, if you receive proper medication and follow the post treatment guidelines well enough then you can expect positive results within a year or so. The surgery and the therapies (chemo and radiation) help in a great way for you to recover. You can expect positive response and the surgery eliminates most of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. However, you must always monitor for signs of cancer rejuvenation and consult your medical expert periodically and maintain a healthy diet as well.

References

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Written ByDr. Sanjaya MishraMD - OncologyOncology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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