When cancer is found in the pancreas gland, a person is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, there are many types of this disease. The most prevalent form of pancreatic cancer is found in the ducts of the pancreas that transport fluids. Exocrine pancreatic cancer is the name of this type. Islet cell or endocrine pancreatic cancer is rarer and is found in hormone-making cells.
There are a variety of known causes of pancreatic cancer. Some of the risk factors include being over the age of 45 and smoking tobacco products. People who have been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, long-term diabetes, obesity, or certain genetic disorders are at a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Those with a family history of the disease are also at a higher risk. Other factors that may increase the likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer include diets high in fat and overexposure to certain chemical substances.
The most important thing you can do to aid in the early detection of this disease is to have a routine physical exam performed by your doctor.
What Is Palliative Care?
The specialized care delivered to patients with serious illnesses is called palliative (“pal-ee-uh-tiv”) care. The focus of this type of care is relief. A team of caregivers works to help you decrease pain, discomfort and stress associated with an illness such as pancreatic cancer. The priority for your caregivers is to increase your quality of life and that of your family.
When you are given palliative care, your team will consist of nurses, doctors, social workers and specialists. They will work in conjunction with your oncologists and family in order to provide you with more support. Receiving palliative care is appropriate no matter the stage of your illness or your age. The care can be given in conjunction with any treatments that your oncologists determine to be appropriate for your specific condition.
How Palliative Care Helps
When cancer cells begin to replicate, there are often no warning signs or symptoms. You feel perfectly healthy. As the cancer begins to grow, you may notice physical changes. A yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin, or jaundice, is often the first sign of pancreatic cancer. You may also experience back or abdominal pain as the tumor increases in size.
The pain associated with pancreatic cancer can intensify as the disease progresses. This is because the tumor may eventually invade nerves or spread to other organs. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer can change or worsen rapidly.
Your Palliative Care Team
Palliative caregivers are well-educated in the treatment of pain. The medical professionals on your team can prescribe medications that will help to alleviate your discomfort. Your team will discuss your medications and their effectiveness with you frequently, making any adjustments that are necessary to increase your level of comfort. Your medications may also be adjusted if you experience side effects that affect your quality of life.
If you decide to undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer, your oncologist may recommend chemotherapy or radiation. A third option is targeted therapy. This type of therapy involves taking an oral medication that works to stop cancer cells, blocking their growth and, ultimately, the spread of your cancer.
In the earliest stages of this type of cancer, surgery may be an option. If the cancer has spread outside of and beyond the pancreas, chances of a successful surgery are diminished. At that point, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapy may be used to extend your life.
Beginning the Palliative Care Process
If you hope to gain the most benefit from palliative care, you should consult with a team of caregivers as soon as you are diagnosed. Your specialized team of caregivers will help you weigh your options by explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each. They can tell you what you can realistically expect as your disease progresses and as you undergo your choice of treatment.
When your treatment has reached its conclusion, you can expect to be routinely tested by your doctor. These tests will check to see whether or not the cancer has returned.
Living During Difficult Times
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is not only stressful and frightening for the patient, but for their family as well. Your palliative care team will work with your family as they come to terms with your diagnosis. They can answer any questions about your disease and the care and treatment required.
Care and Support
Your palliative care team will help you understand your disease and the impact it will have on your life. They will help you understand your treatment options, and they will be there for you and your family as you deal with your diagnosis. These are just some of the reasons why palliative care is so important after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Getting Palliative Care
Palliative care can be utilized to help you or your loved one life the highest quality of life while struggling with chronic disease. To learn more about palliative care and the benefits it has, contact Harbor Light Hospice today.