Why are Patients with Pancreatic Cancer so Sick?

Why are Patients with Pancreatic Cancer so Sick?

Our team recently received this email on one of our forums. It is a great question that also points to the difficulty of medicine. In order to answer this, we are going to talk about a few related concepts.

Are patients with Pancreatic Cancer waiting too long?

Along with other medical conditions like Hypertension, Liver Failure, Liver Cancer, and several other medical problems – the first sign of a serious medical problem is when the problem is serious and sometimes too late.

The body has an incredible ability to adapt and often the patient won’t really be having any symptoms in the “early” stages of the disease. If they are having symptoms – they might dismiss them as everyday problems or something related to the weather or something else they are dealing with.

By the time the “serious” symptoms are noted – the cancer or other medical condition has become severe and affecting several different aspects of the body. With Pancreatic Cancer – weight loss is the most common first symptom that is seen. After 20 lbs or more weight loss – the patient is coming to their medical provider but by that time, the cancer has been around for months or longer.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

As with any cancer – there are several different forms of Pancreatic Cancer. Some are benign – (non-cancerous) and other are cancerous. In Pancreatic Cancer – 85% of have Adenocarcinoma.

Other types include: Acinar Cell Carcinoma, Cystadenocarcinomas, Pancreatobolastoma, Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Tumor, and many more.

Learn more about Pancreatic Cancer:  Here

My Cousin Survived (or died) – Why is someone else having a different outcome?

In medicine, we like to term this “Tunnel Vision Medicine/Treatment”.  You base one person’s case on what you think happened in another case. Often times, you are unaware of the complexity associated with the medical treatment.

Because medicine is so vast and the risk factors are important. There could be a number of reasons that someone’s outcome of Pancreatic Cancer may be different than someone else’s. Often the First thing is the associated risk factors and/or cause of cancer. Second is the type of Cancer. The third is location, the Fourth is Severity, and the Fifth is the reaction to treatment.  There are other issues to be considered like age, other medical problems, and more.

The number of variables is impressive. If you think that all Pancreatic Cancers are the same, then you would form an expectation that might be impossible to live up to.

Why don’t we scan everyone for Pancreatic Cancer?

This is a common question for not only this type of cancer but for almost all cancers. When the cancer is deep within the body and a CT or MRI is required to find, the studies have shown that a large number of group testing is ineffective and potentially dangerous.

A few exceptions may be breast cancer and colon cancer. In both cases, we have found non-invasive forms of preventative evaluations. Even with these, there are many that argue that the risks still outweigh the benefits. I am not sure that I agree but this is a reasonable argument.

The cost would be astronomical. But so is the treatment for cancer.

If there were a blood test that could help, this would greatly improve the ability for preventative evaluations. For now, the medical community is left to wait for symptoms to begin or a lucky find.

Last Thought

Thousands of cases of Pancreatic Cancer have been studied – along with hundreds of other medical conditions. This is called evidence-based medicine. Prognosis, Evaluation of symptoms, treatments, measurements are attempted to provide the best possible medicine available.

It is safe to say that many people will react or act in a certain manner to a certain medical condition. But, not everyone will though. That is the amazing thing about medicine and it can also be heartbreaking. Imagine that you are told that a loved one has an 85% survival rate – but they still die. The opposite is equally true if you live despite an extremely serious sickness.

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