Saturday, January 14, 2006

cancer, pancreatic

The incidence of cancer of the pancreas is, inexplicably, steadily rising. The disease in males over the age of 75 is eight to 10 times that in the general population. Early diagnosis is often difficult because symptoms may not be apparent until the disease is far advanced.
Abdominal pain is the predominant symptom and manifests as a dull ache or boring pain. Weight loss occurs in almost all patients and can be rapid and progressive despite maintaining a good appetite and adequate food intake. Jaundice is also typical. Bowel symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence are also common.
Radiation therapy or chemotherapy are used on inoperable tumors but do not offer a cure. The most that can be hoped for is to enable the patient to be more comfortable. In some cases, surgery may be performed but the mortality rate is very high.
The course of pancreatic cancer is rapidly progressive and metastatic spread occurs early. Survival from the time of diagnosis to death is usually less than six months.
Rossman, I. Clinical Geriatrics. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1986.
Scherer, J. C. Introductory Medical-Surgical Nursing. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1982.

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