The Deadly Disease
by Rae Gillen
(Wichita Falls, Texas)
Wichita Falls, Texas
The Deadly Disease
Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence. The average general health article on pancreatic cancer states flatly that this type of cancer shows no early symptoms. Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are already in the advanced stage of the disease by the time the cancer is caught; the typical prognosis is death within five years. Only four percent of pancreatic cancer patients live beyond five years. People with pancreatic cancer don’t have any symptoms of the cancer, until it is too late (caring.com). The identifiable symptoms are as follows: a sudden onset of diabetes, yellowing of the skin and eyes, abdominal pain, itchy skin, lack of appetite, weight loss, and changes in taste. When people finally go to the doctor with these problems, it is usually too late.
If the cancer is caught early, there is a much greater survival rate. Once the mass is found on the pancreas, the doctors begin tests to identify where the mass is, how big it is, and if the mass is on the head or the tale of the pancreas. Some of the most prevalent tests that doctors use are the following: abdominal ultrasound, endoscopic biopsy, contrasting ct scans, positron emission tomography or PET scan, blood tests looking for pancreatic tumor markers blood test, and surgical biopsy (mdanderson.org).
The pancreas is a mystery that doctors trying to solve every day. Doctors know that people can’t live without it, but they don’t know the function of the pancreas or what causes this deadly disease. Doctors have narrowed one of the causes for this type cancer down to genetics. Since some of the tests are not completely accurate, researchers are working on new tests that will be more accurate for early detection. These tests are used when a tumor on the pancreas is exposed inadvertently.
I am living the scary reality that I have a mass on my pancreas right now. Fortunately for me, Dr. Gonzales found my mass, incredibly by a routine ct scan.
I went to the doctor thinking I had a kidney stone. Dr. Gonzales ordered a ct scan. After completing a routine ct scan, I had to go back to the doctor for the results. The good news was that I didn’t have kidney stones. The bad news was that ct scan exposed a lesion on my pancreas. This is when the doctor’s appointments became a whirl wind. Further testing began immediately.
My doctor immediately ordered a contrasting ct scan. This is the test that I had to drink a chalky tasting liquid. This coated the inside of my abdomen and gave a much better image of my pancreas. The results were the same. I had a three millimeter lesion on my pancreas. I was then referred to a gastroenterologist. While seeing Dr. Ho, he told me that I needed endoscopic biopsy. He called a doctor in Ft Worth. Dr. Ho wanted to get an appointment for the endoscope the following week, but that didn’t happen. My appointment was two weeks away. When I got to the hospital, I was put to sleep, and the doctor ran a very small tube through my esophagus to the beginning of my small intestine. He did this with a camera placed at the end of the tube. Immediately after this procedure, the doctor said that he didn’t see anything. We were so relieved! He then said that to be absolutely sure, he wanted me to go back to Ft. Worth for my third ct scan. He said that they had more up-to-date equipment. This ct scan was layered. That means that the image would display my pancreas layer by layer. After arriving at the imaging center, the medical assistant gave me a drink that would again coat the inside of my abdomen. In this ct scan they injected radioactive iodine in my vein to get the entire view.
The doctor called me in about four days, and said that there was, in fact, a mass on my pancreas. He then ordered a blood test. This blood test was checking for pancreatic tumor markers. My tumor markers were elevated, so he did another endoscope. Again, he didn’t see anything. Since there are false positives on this test, Dr. George has ordered another blood test to be taken in three weeks, for blood marker repeatability. I know right now that there is something on my pancreas, but so far we (the doctors and I) have no idea what it is. Stay tuned!