Pancreatic Cancer Life Expectancy

Our pancreas, which is located in the abdominal region, performs two main functions – endocrine and exocrine. These functional cells can both facilitate the development of cancer cells, while most pancreatic cancers are considered adenocarcinomas. Most patients who get a pancreatic cancer diagnosis are not exhibiting any risk factors at the time. It is a very lethal condition, because it can spread very quickly after it first develops in the body. Another issue is the fact that pancreatic cancer is not detected until it is in the latter stages, which makes treatment and recovery a very challenging prospect for patients.

The only real cure for pancreatic cancer is removal of the pancreas, but most patients are not eligible for these pancreas transplants.

Pancreatic Cancer Life Expectancy

Pancreatic cancer is an immensely challenging disease for anyone to experience. Even if it is possible to surgically remove the tumor, there is always a chance of the cancer recurring. Only 20 percent of the individuals who go through the Whipple procedure for removing pancreatic tumors will live for more than five years after the procedure – the rest do not live for more than two years. Patients who have incurable pancreatic cancer have even shorter life spans, which are usually measured in months not years. 

According to the American Cancer Society, the one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 20 percent, while the five-year survival rate is only six percent. Doctors from around the world have worked very hard to find a cure for this condition, but not many improvements have been made.

Factors That Will Affect Your Life Expectancy

Life expectancy of pancreatic cancer depends greatly on the specific situation of the patient. The stage of the pancreatic cancer when it is first diagnosed will play a huge role in whether or not the patient can make a proper and lasting recovery from this condition. Advanced stages of pancreatic cancer are much more likely to be fatal than the earlier stages.

Some of the factors that will determine an individual’s pancreatic cancer life expectancy are age, overall health, lifestyle, and mental health.

Doctors can help patients who are suffering from pancreatic cancer live their life in the best way possible. Not only can they provide treatment, but they can also help patients feel more in control of their destiny and the time they have left.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatments

Depending on a person's overall health, the stage of pancreatic cancer, and where it is located, there are different treatment options available. Every pancreatic cancer treatment will strive to eliminate the cancer completely. But this is not always possible, which means the treatment is more about keeping the cancer contained. Containment is not a long term solution, but it is often the best approach that doctors can take with patients who are already at a late stage of their diagnosis. Doctors will help relieve symptoms and give patients the most comfortable life possible in the time they have remaining.

1. Surgery

  • Whipple Procedure: This procedure involves removing the pancreas head from your body, along with some part of the small intestine, gallbladder and bile duct. Some part of your stomach may also have to be removed. Surgeons have a way of combining the remaining pancreas, stomach and intestine parts in your body to ensure you can still digest food properly.
  • Digital Pancreatectomy: This surgery will remove the tail of your pancreas, along with small portions of nearby body parts. The surgery may also result in your spleen being removed. It is an extremely risky surgery that can cause internal bleeding and/or infection.

2. Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is performed on your pancreas by using high-energy beams to try and eliminate the cancer cells. These treatments are sometimes done in conjunction with one of the surgical procedures.

3. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy involves injecting drugs into your system orally or through your veins in order to try and kill the cancer cells in your body. Patients may get one or multiple chemotherapy drugs, depending on their circumstances. Chemotherapy is most often used if a person has developed cancer cells in multiple parts of their body – not only in the pancreas. Chemotherapy is often a last resort for patients in the late stages of pancreatic cancer.

4. Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy works by attacking abnormalities within the cancer cells in your body. The drug in question, Tarceva, blocks the chemicals that tell cancer cells to continue growing and dividing. This drug is often combined with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, to fight off pancreatic cancer in patients who are in the late stage.

5. Clinical Trials

New clinical trials are always popping up to treat different forms of cancer, and pancreatic cancer is no different in this regard. With the pancreatic cancer life expectancy not being very good, many patients may consider rolling the dice and signing up for one of these clinical trials.

Can It Be Prevented?

Even though there is no surefire way to prevent pancreatic cancer, there are three steps everyone can take to ensure their risk is as low as possible.

  • The first step involves maintaining a healthy weight. It is very important for everyone to try and keep themselves at a healthy weight, especially as they get older.
  • Another factor in pancreatic cancer is smoking. If you smoke right now, do everything you can to stop.
  • Keep a healthy diet. Include more fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains in your diet to reduce your risks of getting cancer.
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