Pancreas Cancer Facts
Pancreas cancer facts, coping strategies, useful tips, and inspiration to help you deal with this disease.
Pancreas cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments are only helpful in Stage-1 and Stage-2 diagnosis of this disease. Sadly, there is little hope for diagnosing this cancer at an earlier stage, for there is no current pre-screening test for this disease. Although Johns Hopkins is currently working on developing a test, there is still no test to screen for this type of cancer.
A patient who is diagnosed with Stage-3 or Stage-4 pancreatic cancer is almost always faced with a terminal diagnosis. Stage-3 means that the cancer has spread to the lymphatic system. Stage-4 cancer means that the cancer has not only spread to the lymph nodes, but also to an organ that is distant from the pancreas.
When a loved one has this type of cancer, we are faced with myriad emotions. We love them and certainly do not want to lose them. The cancer victim, of course, wants to do everything that he/she can to live. The tragic thing about opting for chemotherapy and other treatments when faced with Stage-4 diagnosis is the decrease in the quality of life. Often, these procedures are futile. In far too many cases, the person struggling with pancreas cancer only becomes sicker from these treatments. Of course, this is a very personal choice. Every person diagnosed with pancreas cancer must weigh the pros and cons and make the decision best suited for him/her.
Doctors are quick to give hope and often slow to give a prognosis. Be wary of this when you are dealing with your doctor. Too often, a patient is given false hope that he/she has much longer to live than is realistic. Of course, we often hear what we want to hear. Keeping hope alive is certainly important for the person who is battling pancreas cancer, but the patient must also be willing to deal with the dire circumstances of this deadly illness. So, too, must the family be willing to face the impending death of someone whom they love.
There is a very delicate balance that must be met. The cancer patient must keep hope alive while asking his/her physician some very important questions that can help him/her prepare to deal with this disease. Here are just a few of the most important questions that any patient dealing with pancreas cancer should ask his/her physician.
1. Has my cancer spread beyond the pancreas?
2. What stage of pancreas cancer do I have?
3. Are there treatment options available to me?
4. Do you recommend treatment?
5. How will these treatments decrease my quality of life?
6. What are my chances of survival?
7. What is my prognosis?
These are very difficult questions for anyone to ask a physician. But these are very important questions that need to be answered early in the battle with pancreas cancer.
Many families and patients alike go through a stage of denial and disbelief. Following this stage, they are often filled with anger and rage. Be patient with the patient. Remember that he/she needs your love. Dealing with the very real probability of death can help both the cancer sufferer and the family members move past the circumstances and find a much deeper love and comfort. Dealing with death is painful, and can be accompanied by guilt.
The person who is dying is faced not only with death, but also the terrifying idea of leaving the people whom he/she loves dearly. The loved one often deals with survivor's guilt, which often makes the person pose the question, "Why can't it be me dying?" Both of these responses are quite normal. It is okay to cry. You must get your feelings of grief out early. Holding such feelings in will only cause more pain.
Of course, it is always acceptable to talk to the patient about these things. Although many of us find this very difficult, this is a time that can help you become much closer to your loved one. This is a time that is often filled with love and closeness. Remember that the cancer patient thrives on hugs and loving words. Be sure to use this opportunity to bring your family closer.
Remember that there is help for you out there. If you are having trouble dealing with your own or a family member's diagnosis, there are places to turn. Johns Hopkins has a wonderful site on the Internet, offering chats and many other free grief services. Hospice is another wonderful resource. There is a Hospice in nearly every community in the United States. Be sure to check with your local hospital.
You can find grief counselors, therapy groups, and other resources for pancreas patients and family members in your local yellow pages. Good luck.