The pancreas is an organ that is vital to the digestive tract. It secretes digestive enzymes that help the body absorb nutrients. Pancreatic cancer originates in this organ but can spread rapidly to other parts of the body. With pancreatic cancer, the outcome is frequently poor, even when detected early. Symptoms may not occur until it is very advanced and surgical removal is no longer possible. This is why any suspicious symptoms must be checked out as soon as possible, so that if necessary a thorough pancreatic cancer treatment plan can be undertaken by the experts at our Los Angeles facility.
Pancreatic Cancer Facts
Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, accounting for only 3% of all cancers in the US. It occurs slightly more often in men than in women. As people in general are having scans for many reasons, pancreatic tumors and abnormalities are being detected earlier, which increases the effectiveness of pancreatic cancer treatment. Los Angeles offers a wide array of free-standing diagnostic centers providing general scans as part of an annual physical examination.
The pancreas is composed of 2 types of glands; the exocrine glands, which secrete digestive enzymes into the intestine and the endocrine glands, which secrete the hormones insulin and glucagon into the blood stream.
Although most pancreatic cancer begins in the exocrine glands, it is a vital component of treatment to distinguish whether the cancer is exocrine or endocrine. There are distinctive treatments for each type of cancer, and different risk factors that must be managed with different cancer treatment protocols. Our specialized diagnostic team is highly respected for applying uncompromising testing standards enabling our doctors to provide unsurpassed pancreatic cancer treatment in Los Angeles.
Some of the growths detected by scans and testing are benign. Whether these growths should be removed or monitored closely depends on several factors. Imaging results taken over time will show the rate of growth and size of the growth compared to the earlier scans and with that information, a determination can be made. Some non-cancerous growths can become cancerous if left untreated so may need to be removed even if there are no symptoms associated with them.
Once symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Pain in the upper stomach that can spread to the back
- Yellow skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Diminished appetite
- Weight loss
- Blood clotting
If you notice any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. These symptoms may be characteristic of many other conditions besides cancer, so ensure that testing is thorough and accurate.
Testing and diagnosis
In the accurate diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, there are many available tests. Your doctor may use one or more of the following examination procedures:
- Internal imaging tests to observe your organs. These include ultrasound, CT scan and MRI scan.
- Endoscopic ultrasound, in which an ultrasound device creates images of the pancreas from inside the abdomen.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) uses a combination of dye and x-rays to create a special image of the pancreas and surrounding organs.
- Biopsy of pancreatic tissue for examination. This may be done with a needle and does not require surgery.
If pancreatic cancer is confirmed, the next task is to determine its stage or level of advancement. This data helps determine what treatments are available and which will be most effective. This can be done using a scope passed through an incision in the abdomen so the doctor can examine the pancreas and surrounding tissue. It may also be done by standard imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI. Finally, the doctor may utilize a blood test that will determine the level of tumor markers in the blood. Once the cancer stage is determined, swift action is taken to treat it in every way possible. The Beverly Hills Cancer Center has created an excellent program for pancreatic cancer treatment at our private Los Angeles facility for those touched by this illness.
Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
If the pancreatic cancer has not metastasized to other organs, surgery is an option to remove the cancerous tissue. Surgery to address the head of the pancreas is called a Whipple procedure. Other surgery can address the pancreatic tail and body. This procedure is called a distal pancreatectomy.
By using high-energy beams targeted at the cancer cells, the experts at the Beverly Hills Cancer Center can effectively battle pancreatic cancer. Radiation therapy can also be used in conjunction with chemotherapy if the pancreas cannot be treated surgically.
Chemotherapy is a method of using drugs to kill cancerous tissue. It can be administered intravenously, or orally through the use of pills. In many cases, patients are directed to receive a single chemotherapy drug, while other cases may require a combination of drugs. Chemotherapy can be used by itself or with radiation therapy. The professionals at the Beverly Hills Cancer Center will map out a plan of attack that will use all resources to their fullest capacity, providing among the best pancreatic cancer treatment Los Angeles has available.
Clinical trials are safe methods of testing new forms of treatment. At the Beverly Hills Cancer Center, we are on the forefront of testing for new clinical trials. Patients with pancreatic cancer may be able to take advantage of these. We will simply perform a series of tests to determine candidacy for the current clinical trials we offer. In some cases, clinical trials have been able to help a patient recover when no other treatment option could. Call us today to find out more about clinical trials. Contact us today to find out more about our pancreatic cancer program.
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