Cancer of the pancreas


(stella wood) #1

Does anyone have any experience with this…

I’ve discovered, today, that a close friend has this… and his wife was talking to me about Googling… (at least, I think that is what she was saying…)

I just wondered… any ideas folks… ???

(Mandy Davies) #2

Oh goodness Stella that’s horrible news for you. If you are going to Google it then brace yourself. Sadly, it’s one of those cancers that is often found very late and generally has a poor prognosis. Let’s hope he’s one of the lucky ones, there is always hope.

I imagine @ptf is your man for this one or maybe @Peter_Goble or @NellieMoss.

(Peter Goble) #3

My youngest brother, who was a nurse like me, had this disease and it is generally incurable, progresses very rapidly, and is extremely difficult to manage medically. The first signs are often deep jaundice with itching, severe abdoninal pain and rapid weight-loss. Death within 5 years is the usual prognosis.

Very few cases are operable and patients usually have a stent inserted via an endoscope to allow bile to flow so that the jaundice susbsides. Pain is relieved with opiates or similarly potent analgesics. Patients need a lot of psychological support and may become profoundly depressed.

Unfortunately, it is one of the worst kinds of cancer, and I am very sorry that anyone has to face it, either as a patient or as a concerned other.

Obviously this is not the information to be given brutally to the patient, but it is generally the outlook, and carers will want to know it. My brother knew the outlook from the first diagnosis and lived out a couple of years bravely and stoically. I did what I could to give him support and to help his wife and children.

He was 11 years my junior and I remember holding him when he was a newborn baby. We were very close. He died at home and was very well cared for by the end-of-life team in Woodford Green, north London.

(Mandy Davies) #4

I’m a bit confused Pete. Obviously, I bow to your superior knowledge of all things medical but what you’re describing seems to be gall bladder cancer. My friend died of this at just 32 years old and within just a few weeks of diagnosis.

(stella wood) #5

Thanks Peter… it’s been one of those years… :hushed:

(Mandy Davies) #6

Hit the reply button too soon ggrrrrrrr!!!

Very sad about your brother. I’m so sorry you lost him like that. Everyone seems to have a terribly sad story in their lives. Life is way too difficult and way too serious at times.

(stella wood) #7

I’m sincerely hoping for the 5 years… rather than a few weeks… although it will depend on how things go for the guy concerned. :relaxed:

Reading through this thread… I think I need a second glass of wine… :wink: but OH has just brought me a cuppa… he’s wonderful :slight_smile:

(Glenn Beavis) #8

I have read a small bit about this before. Not something i would wish on anyone, and i mean that. I would personally find it hard to cope, if I contracted it. All the best to those concerned.

(Nellie Moss ) #9

Hi Mandy Cancer of the pancreas can block the common bile duct , which is how the gall bladder drains into the intestines

(Paul Flinders) #10

Oh dear Stella, I am so very sorry to hear this - do you know if it has been caught early enough for surgery?

Mandy is right, it is not a nice illness and you will need to brace yourself before surfing for information - or even reading the rest of this post.

Peter is correct.

Most (65%) pancreatic cancers are in the “head” of the pancreas, the remainder are in the body and tail (15%) or diffusely affect the whole pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer tends to present with jaundice (75% of cases), especially in the pancreatic head because the pancreatic duct and bile duct join up before running into the first part of the small bowel (the duodenum) so blockage of the bile duct is common. Weight loss (in 50%), abdominal pain (40%), and nausea (10%) are also common presenting symptoms.

Survival is not good, because almost all pancreatic cancers have already spread to distant organs - only 15-20% are suitable for surgery and even for those patients the outlook is poor. There has just been a study using a chemotherapy regimen called FOLFIRINOX after surgery in very fit patients (it is a tough combination even by chemotherapy standards) this showed an average overall survival of 54 months with the new chemo compared with 35 months for the previous standard chemotherapy - but that still means only perhaps 40-45% of patients making it to 5 years.

If the cancer has spread chemotherapy can be used to try to slow the progress a bit but even then the average is about 12 months with the FOLFIRINOX treatment compared to 7 months for the older chemo regimens - but you have to be pretty fit for the more aggressive chemo and not all patients will be able to tolerate it.

For pancreatic cancer which has spread only 5-10% make it to 2 years and only 1-2% of patients make it as far as 5 years.

(stella wood) #11

Thank you Paul. Mmmm… grim reading. I need to find out more, delicately, without intruding/upsetting the family. Meanwhile, I will continue to be my normal, cheerful/helpful self… anything else is likely to upset them even more… :thinking:

(Peter Goble) #12

[quote=“smwsplr, post:11, topic:23210, full:true”] Meanwhile, I will continue to be my normal, cheerful/helpful self… anything else is likely to upset them even more… :thinking:

By doing just that you will make their journey infinitely more tolerable, Stella, bless your kind, sturdy heart :heart::hugs:xx

(Mandy Davies) #13

Thanks for clearing that up @NellieMoss and @ptf

Sorry Pete @Peter_Goble , that just sounded so much like what happened to my friend. I guess everything is very connected in that area. As expected you know what you’re talking about and I do not.

(Peter Goble) #14

Absolutely pas graaaaave, Mandy! These things are very often not clear-cut, because the human body is very “open-plan” and, like the old song goes, “the nose bone’s connected to the cheekbone, the cheekbone’s connected to the jawbone, the jawbone’s connected to the neckbone etc etc”… So praise the name of the Lord! :joy::pray::innocent:

(Nellie Moss ) #15

A few years ago a distant relative was taken ill on Boxing Day and went into hospital. He passed away on New Years Eve of pancreatic cancer. Harrys case was extreme but as others have said it’s a nasty b@gger. I would discourage anyone from googling

(Jane Jones) #16

And if the desire to google becomes too much then stick to sites like cancer research uk, which gives realistic but measured advice. But probably best to encourage your friends to stick to talking to their doctors.

The only other thing I know is that it can be one of the most painful of the cancers. Sorry.

(David Wallace) #17

My wife died from this agressive disease a few years ago. She was treated (chemo) in both UK and France. I understand how difficult it is to absorb this news, and it can be hard to take in what medics are saying and what the prognosis and treatment options are. I would recommend two organisations for support -

  1. Cancer Support France - - can provide support by phone or in person (depending where you are) - not medical advice but emotional and logistical support - by which I mean how to navigate the french health system to get the quickest response (speed is vital)
  2. PC UK - see and speak-to-a-nurse - Freephone 0808 801 0707
    These are specialist nurses with specific knowledge of pancreatic cancer who can talk you through your individual situation and the options available.
    Good luck

(stella wood) #18

A heart-felt Thank You to each and every one of you who has taken the trouble to post here…

It is clear that difficult times lie ahead… I will NOT Google… you have all told me quite enough… but I will discuss with my own doctor when OH goes for his 3-monthly checks in a couple of weeks…

In the meantime… I will be trying to help/support my friends …


(Phillip Cox) #19

as per my previous messages…my wife had this terrible disease, so if there is anything I can help with, please let me know

(Peter Juselius) #20

My wife had this cancer too.

My sympathies go to everybody who has to go through this.