Is Pancreatic Cancer Survivable If You Know What to Look For?

Michael Chin Worcester Pancreatic

Your pancreas is a 6 inch long organ that sits near your stomach on the back of your abdomen and connects to your small intestine through the pancreatic duct. It’s primary function is to assist your body in digestion in terms of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Additionally, your pancreas is what produces insulin– a peptide hormone in your body that allows sugar to transfer from the bloodstream to the cells in your body. Every living mammal requires insulin to pump through their body in order to survive, thus making your pancreas an incredibly vital gland.

 

The pancreas can develop a variety of conditions such as:

 

  • Diabetes Type 1: This occurs when your body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells.
  • Diabetes Type 2: If a person has Type 2 Diabetes, their pancreas lacks the ability to produce insulin. This is where high-blood pressure is critical to get under control.
  • Cystic Fibrosis: A genetic disorder that typically affects the lungs or pancreas and usually leads to diabetes.
  • Pancreatic Cancer: Due to the amount of different cells in the pancreas, a tumor can develop out of one of those cells causing cancer.
  • Pancreatitis: The digestive chemicals in the pancreas cause damage which leads to inflammation.
  • Islet Cell Tumor: This occurs when the cells abnormally multiply and a tumor grows. This tumor can either be benign or cancerous. The tumor will release hormones into the blood.

 

While there are even more conditions that your pancreas can be affected by, knowing the right signs to look for can spare you time, pain, and even developing pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer has such a high fatality rate, and that’s mostly due to lack of knowledge when people are experiencing the signs and symptoms.

 

Jaundice:

 

A clear indicator of jaundice is when your eyes and skin have turned yellow. One of the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer is jaundice. Jaundice is when your body produces too much bilirubin– a yellow chemical that will develop in your hemoglobin which carries oxygen in red blood cells. Before your eyes and skin turn yellow, another sign that you may have jaundice is dark, brownish colored urine.

 

Abdominal and Back Pain:

 

Your pancreas sits in your lower abdomen right near your back. If you have pain in that general area, it might be easy to confuse with a stomach ache or back pain. When cancer grows in the pancreas, it can enlarge and begin to press on it’s surrounding areas and cause more pain.

 

Appetite and Weight Loss:

 

Often a common factor of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have experienced a drop in their appetite and resulted in losing weight.

 

Nausea and Vomiting:

 

Due to the location of the pancreas, when cancer grows it can press against the stomach. This is why it often makes people feel nauseous or even vomit.

 

The signs for pancreatic cancer are often hard to catch which is what results in the high fatality rate of those with pancreatic cancer. You can reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by looking into any early warning signs as they occur.

How to Cope with Cancer During the Holidays

Michael Chin Worcester Holiday Coping
The holidays are just around the corner, and along with them comes happy moments with family and friends– the perfect time to be surrounded by your loved ones. Unfortunately, for many that suffer from a disease or illness, it’s hard to partake in holiday events and pretend as if everything is completely normal. Cancer, for one, is a difficult disease to cope with during holiday cheer. Whether you or someone you know is suffering from cancer, here’s how you can cope through the questions, the conversations, and enjoy the celebrations despite the circumstances.

Make Plans

Don’t skip out on the holiday fun. While it may require a lot of energy, this is your chance to not miss out on opportunities and experiences with those you love. Cancer can put a big elephant in the room, such as the burden of financial treatments, physical limitations that come from treatments, cause fear and change the overall dynamic between a person with cancer and their loved ones.

These words of inspiration coming from cancer survivors provide pretty good insight as to why someone with cancer should embrace the holidays. Don’t skip out on the plans. Whether it’s a relaxing night with Christmas movies on the t.v. or you take a trip to see those Christmas lights sparkle in the night, this is your time to find healing in the holidays no matter the circumstances.

Express Your True Feelings

The most important thing to remember around the holidays is that it’s completely okay to express how you really feel. Friends and family members may bring up hard questions and conversations but a person coping with cancer should always put themselves first. Yes, the holidays are about others, but first and foremost you should maintain low stress levels and ensure your comfortability.

Get regular sleep, talk openly about expectations during the family and friend get togethers. Admit when you’re simply too tired to participate or speak up when you’re ready to join in the fun. Either way, put yourself and your feelings first.

Celebrate the Highs and the Lows

In an episode of Dr. Ken back in February of 2017, an episode aired on the topic of breast cancer– more particularly, his wife’s journey of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Although it’s typically a comedy show, this episode by no means was making a joke out of cancer, but rather attempting to find humor and shed light on a dark situation.

Dr. Ken set the perfect example of how to lighten the sad mood that typically weighs over the topic of cancer. During the holidays this year, rather than get stuck on sadness, celebrate both the high moments and the low moments. When you or a loved one with cancer has a good day, absorb those emotions. If a bad moment occurs, cherish the comfort of having friends and family surrounding you during the time everyone else is celebrating with food, gifts, music, and more.

Do You Need Regular Cancer Screenings

Cancer. We all know someone who has been diagnosed or affected by cancer. But what is it really? According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. Regardless of the type of cancer, the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissue. Normally, the body creates new cells as the old, damaged cells die off. As cancer develops, these cells begin to behave erratically. Old, damaged cells continue to survive while new, unnecessary cells form, which eventually leads to the growth of a tumor. Screening is checking your body for cancer before you have any symptoms. Cancer screening is recommended by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, as well as the Center for Disease Control, in accordance with guidelines set by cancer type and age. Regular screenings may help diagnosis breast, cervical, and colon cancers early on when treatments would be most likely to work.

 

Breast Cancer

The first part of breast cancer prevention is awareness of your body. Every woman should know how her breasts typically look and feel. Regular self-checks can be beneficial in understanding your body. Any noted changes in the breasts should be shared with your doctor. All women should also know the benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS)  encourages women aged 40-44 to start thinking about their choice to receive regular mammograms. Mammography is a specific tool used to view the breast, and it produces images that can show irregularities and tumors. From ages 45 to 54, the ACS recommends yearly mammograms. At the age of 55, women can begin to have mammograms once every two years. Screening should continue as long as the woman is in good health, and is expected to live for ten or more years.

 

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer screenings come in two forms: Pap and Human papillomavirus, or HPV, testing. Both types of screenings use cells from the outside of a woman’s cervix. The cells are scraped and then tested for specific strains of HPV; some strains have a higher likelihood of developing into cervical cancer. Using the cells from outside the cervix, the pap test is checked by a pathologist for precancerous or cancerous cells. Pat tests should take place once a year after a woman turns 21 until age 29. Starting at age 30 until 65, a woman should get both a PAP and a HPV test once every five years. After age 65, all testing can cease unless there is a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer. In which case, testing should continue until 20 years after diagnosis.

 

Colon Cancer

Beginning at age 50, men and women alike should start screening for colon cancer. There are many different kinds of screening for this type of cancer with the most common being a colonoscopy. Using a flexible, lighted tube, the doctor checks the entire colon for cancer. Talk with your doctor about your family history to determine the right plan for you.

Types, Benefits and Risks of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is one of the most common treatment options for cancer patients. It works by directing high doses of radiation to the site of the cancer to stop the cells from multiplying and spreading, with the eventual goal of killing them entirely to remove cancer from the body. However, like all advanced treatment options, it is not without risks. One of the types of cancer that radiation therapy is commonly recommended for is prostate cancer.

Benefits

There are several different uses of radiation therapy as a treatment for prostate cancer. Although it is most commonly employed as a curative treatment to rid the body of cancer, sometimes complete removal is not an option. In that case, radiation therapy can be administered as a palliative treatment to help control the spread of the cancer and ease symptoms.

The type of treatment a prostate cancer patient receives depends on the degree and severity of the cancer. In external beam radiation (EBRT), high doses of x-ray beams are aimed out of a machine onto the prostate. Treatments can extend for several weeks, because the dose of radiation required to kill the cancer cells must be spread out over multiple sessions to ensure minimal damage to healthy cells and decrease the risk of side effects.

A second form of radiation therapy is internal radiation, also known as brachytherapy or IRT. This treatment involves a small surgical procedure in which a radioactive pellet is inserted internally on the prostate.

A third option is systematic radiation, which pumps a liquid concentration of radioactive substances into the patient either orally or through an IV. The radioactive substances then travel through the body to the cancer site.

Radiotherapy is often a highly effective cancer treatment, especially when combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can make cancer cells more receptive to radiation, resulting in a better outcome. Research from the Radiation Oncology Targeting Center found that, overall, radiation therapy is 95% effective at treating prostate cancer. The cure rate for men with intermediate-risk prostate cancer treated with external-beam radiation therapy was 95.5% and 91.3% for men with high-risk prostate cancer.

Risks

Although radiation therapy is a highly effective form of treatment, the risks associated with it are well-known and should definitely be a point of discussion any prostate cancer patient should bring up with their doctor before settling on a treatment. Side effects include damage to healthy cells, skin damage, and fatigue. As Dr. Michael Steinberg explains in his video for the Prostate Cancer Research Institute, many of the problems that used to be associated with external-beam radiation, such as rectal bleeding, impotence and bladder complications, pose much less of a risk than they used to. The risk of asymptomatic rectal bleeding runs between two and four percent, and symptomatic rectal bleeding is only half a percent. Bladder problems used to have a risk of about 15% 15-20 years ago, and have been reduced to less than one percent with new intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) techniques.  

As with any medical procedure, the risks of radiotherapy should be weighed with benefits. Your doctor should be able to clear up any questions or concerns you may have and determine your best course of action. Additionally, the medical team administering the therapy can clearly explain the risks and take measures to manage or avoid potential complications.

Making Radiation Therapy Less Scary for Kids Receiving Treatment

Cancer is a devastating and deadly disease claiming 7.6 million lives around the world each year and finding 12.7 million new victims diagnosed with the disease. The three words no one ever wants to hear in their lifetime are, “You have cancer.” It’s tragic enough when an older adult discovers they have cancer and will have to fight an uphill battle for their lives, but when a child with so many years ahead of them is diagnosed with cancer, it’s all the more devastating. Some children diagnosed with cancer are too young to even fully understand the disease, only knowing that it will involve pain and discomfort.

Luckily, even if scientific research has not yet arrived at a cure for cancer, there are many powerful and effective treatments in use today. One of the most common forms of treatment, particularly in combination with other treatments, is radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is primarily used to treat localized cancers concentrated in a single area of the body. High-energy rays aimed from a machine target and destroy cancer cells while sparing as many healthy cells as possible. While there are both short and long-term risks and side effects associated with using radiation to treat cancer, as there are with just about all treatments, radiation therapy has a high success rate and is given to more than half of all cancer patients.

All that being said, the procedure for receiving radiation therapy can be scary, especially for children. It is typically given five times a week, for about five to eight weeks and patients must lay within a huge, tube-like machine to receive the treatments, which last about 10 minutes. During this time, they must remain absolutely still for the treatment to be effective. Even for the most well-behaved children, remaining still while under a great deal of stress and nervousness is no easy task. That is why many kids under the age of 15 undergoing radiation therapy are given anesthesia. Take into account that they receive the treatments almost daily for several weeks, and that is a huge dose of anesthesia for a child, which can come with its own set of side-effects.

According to a new study from the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO), movies projected in the machine during treatments may be a more powerful antidote than anesthesia for children. According to ESTRO, movies help to distract kids from their fears and are “less traumatic for children and their families, as well as making each treatment quicker and more cost effective.”

The researchers of the study tested out their theory on 12 child cancer patients between the ages of 18 month and 6 years, with six of the children watching movies while receiving radiation, and found that the children without videos required anesthesia 83 percent of the time, while those with videos needed it only 33 percent of the time. Though the study involved a small trial size, it demonstrates the success of videos in radiation therapy. The next step, the researchers say, will be to test out videos for anxious or claustrophobic adults receiving radiation therapy.

Check out the video below for a visual demonstration!

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Is It And How Do We Slow It?

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Currently, there is no cure for the disease but scientists have made great strides and are discovering ways that could possible slow the disease.

Radiation Oncology

Radiation Oncology is a branch of medicine that treats cancer by using high-energy radiation in the form of photons (X-Rays and Gamma Rays) or subatomic particles (electrons or protons). Doctors learned how to use this energy to essentially see inside the body and find disease, as you have probably seen with an x-ray that shows pictures of your teeth or bones. At high doses this radiation can actually be used to treat cancer and other illnesses. Check out the presentation below to learn more about radiation oncology.