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Pancreatic Cancer

This cancer obviously strikes the pancreas which produces a range of digestive acids and compounds as well as the hormone insulin, which control blood glucose levels.

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose in its early stages; once it begins to metastasize, palliative treatment is the only option.

Risk Factors and Diagnosis

Those who have the greatest likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer are those who have used tobacco and/or have a chronic condition such as diabetes or endocrine neoplasia. Symptoms may include:

  • jaundice
  • abdominal pain
  • sudden and unexplained weight loss,
  • chronic fatigue
  • loss of appetite

X-rays are usually the first step in the diagnostic process; if there is cause for concern, this will be followed up by advanced imaging such as a CT, MRI, or PET scan as well as an endoscopic ultrasound examination. Ultimately, a biopsy will be needed in order to confirm the diagnosis.

Asbestos exposure is one of the primary risk factors for mesothelioma. There are several different types of mesothelioma that someone can receive a diagnosis for including peritoneal mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma. Unfortunately there is no known cure for mesothelioma cancer.

To date, asbestos exposure is not considered a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

Treatments

Because of the nature of the disease, pancreatic cancer is rarely detected in its earliest stages. For cases in which the disease is caught early on, surgery is an effective option; otherwise, palliative treatments include blockage of the celiac nerve in order to relieve pain.

Other treatments include the standard radiation and chemotherapy treatments; an immunotherapy drug is currently in undergoing clinical trials.

Sources

New York State Department of Health. "Investigation of Cancer Incidence among the Woodstock Asbestos Exposure Registry Population."
http://www.health.state.ny.us/.../woodstockreport.htm

Schenker, Mark. "On The Asbestos Trail." Synthesis, vol. 8 no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2008).

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