What You Need to Know About Pancreatic and Colorectal Cancer


Liver surgeon

The word “cancer” is a scary one. It can completely change someone’s life in the blink of an eye and have lasting effects, whether those are emotional or physical. Perhaps breast cancer and skin cancer are among the best known types of cancer, but colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer are also very common and can be extremely deadly if not caught early enough. For example, if pancreatic cancer is found early enough to surgically remove the tumor, there’s a little over 25% chance for a five-year survival rate. If the cancer has already spread throughout the nearby organs or tissues, the five-year survival rate drops to 10%. And if the cancer has already infiltrated areas of the body that are quite far from the pancreas, the five-year survival rate drops even lower, to 2%. It’s important to be educated about the facts and the outlook for patients with these types of cancer and learning whether surgical measures, such as colon surgery, for example, can improve the patient’s outlook.
How Common Are These Cancers?
Colorectal cancer is the third most common kind of cancer for men and women to be diagnosed with in the United States and pancreatic cancer is the eighth most common for women. It’s the fourth leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. And scarily enough, those statistics aren’t going down. The American Cancer Society predicts that there will be over 95,000 new cases of colon cancer and almost 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer in 2016. In 2014, almost 50,000 adults had pancreatic cancer (split almost evenly between men and women). And in 2014, a little over 40,000 deaths were from pancreatic cancer (slightly weighted towards men than women). Developing colorectal cancer during your lifetime is 1 in 21 for men and 1 in 23 for women, but there are certain risk factors that can also affect your chances.
What’s the Outlook For Patients With These Cancers?
The outlook for pancreatic cancer survival rates is fairly bleak — the American Cancer Society reports that for all stages of pancreatic cancer rolled together, the survival rate for one year is only 20% and the five-year rate is only 6%. This might be in part because less than 20% of tumors are only in the pancreas when the diagnosis is made; usually, the tumor has spread and made surgical removal impossible. The tumor size does seem to correlate to survival rates. The larger the tumor tends to be, the slimmer the chance that resection will cure it. On the other hand though, large tumors can sometimes be removed and patients with tumors that are larger than four to five centimeters have been cured using surgical methods.
For colorectal cancer, the outlook is somewhat better. For patients with Stage 1 colon cancer, the five-year survival rate is over 90% and even for one of the most advanced stages (Stage IIIC), it’s a little over 50%. However, if the colon cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the outlook is not as good — metastatic or Stage IV cancer has a five-year outlook of only 11%.
What Treatments Are Recommended to Fight These Cancers?
Colon surgery is the first treatment that many doctors will recommend and with colon cancer, colon surgery has a proven success rate. If it’s in a more advanced stage, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used as well, if colon surgery isn’t successful.
Similar methods are used to treat pancreatic cancer as well, including pancreatic surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. This may also be coupled with pain treatment for more severe or advanced pancreatic cancer. Ablation or embolization treatments are also common treatments for pancreatic cancer and its common for more than one type of treatment to be used to treat pancreatic cancer effectively.
Although cancer can be a terrifying diagnosis, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Cancer treatments are becoming increasingly sophisticated and effective in their methods and if you catch it early enough, your outlook may be quite good. Getting screened and going to the doctor regularly are good preventative measures as well.

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