Treatments Available to Those Who Have Been Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer After Taking Diabetes Medications

Treatments Available to Those Who Have Been Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer After Taking Diabetes Medications

Pancreatic cancer has been reported almost three times more in patients who treat their type 2 diabetes with incretin medications (Januvia, Janumet, Tradjenta, Byetta, Victoza, Onglyza, etc.) than in patients who treat with other diabetic therapies. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with 74% of patients dying within the first year of diagnosis. Despite such grim statistics, there are several treatment options available to individuals who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. However, before decisions on how to treat can be made, several factors like: age; life expectancy; pre-existing medical conditions; stage of cancer; feasibility of surgery; impact treatment is likely to make on prognosis; and severity of side effects, all must be considered.

Chemotherapy (also called chemo) and radiation (also called radiotherapy) are perhaps the most common non-surgical therapies used to treat pancreatic cancer. While the delivery mechanisms of radiation and chemo are very different, the ultimate goal of treatment is the same; to shrink/eliminate cancer growth. Depending on personal circumstances, chemo and radiation can be given independently or in combination: prior to surgery as an attempt to shrink the cancer and make tumors more operable; after surgery as an attempt to prevent tumor recurrence; or as a life-sustaining and/or symptom reduction measure in cases where the cancer is too widespread and/or inoperable.

Chemotherapy typically consists of a combination of anti-cancer medications given by way of mouth (pill, capsules, liquid), IV infusion, and/or injection. Again, personal circumstances will dictate the frequency, amounts, and settings in which patients will receive their treatment. Some patients are able to receive their chemo at home or from an outpatient clinic, while others must be admitted for a prolonged hospital stay. Radiotherapy, however, uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. There are two main types of radiotherapy (external beam and internal) available to cancer patients. External beam, or teletherapy, is the most common form of radiation treatment. With this particular type of radiotherapy, the patient sits or lies on a couch and an external source of ionizing radiation is pointed at a particular part of the body. Whereas with internal radiotherapy, the source of radiation (solid or liquid) is put inside the patient’s body.

A second line of non-surgical treatment potentially available for those suffering from pancreatic cancer is stem cell therapy. Pancreatic cancer stem cells are cells within the tumor that may be resistant to standard therapies, so even if the other cells within the tumor are killed, the cancer will still continue to grow. There are now drugs thought to target such stem cells and are being used in conjunction with, or subsequent to, chemotherapy.

Generally speaking, when considering surgery as a treatment option for cancer patients, there are two different types, curative and palliative. Curative is when doctors think there is a strong probability that surgery will completely rid the body of cancer. However, if the cancer is too far spread for complete surgical removal, palliative surgery may still be an option to help ease related symptoms. For some pancreatic cancer patients, surgery is a viable treatment option, and can include radiofrequency ablation and partial or total removal of the pancreas (pancreatectomy).  Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), while not often used, is a form of palliative treatment that helps to shrink the tumor and ease related symptoms. During an RFA procedure, a probe is inserted into the tumor, which then injects an extremely hot electrical current, thereby destroying the cancer cells.

Several types of pancreatectomy exist, including: pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure); distal pancreatectomy; and total pancreatectomy. The Whipple procedure, which can only be performed in about 20% of patients with pancreatic cancer, is probably the most commonly performed surgery used to treat pancreatic cancer. Patients qualifying for the Whipple procedure are those whose tumors are confined to the head (wide portion) of the pancreas, and where the cancer has not spread into any of the nearby major blood vessels, liver, lungs, or abdominal cavity. The Whipple procedure removes the head of the pancreas, as well as the duodenum (part of small intestine), a portion of the common bile duct, the gallbladder, and sometimes part of the stomach. A distal pancreatectomy is performed in patients whose cancer is confined within the tail or body (thin end) of the pancreas. The spleen is also usually removed during this procedure as it is located next to the tail of the pancreas. A total pancreatectomy, which removes the entire pancreas, is an incredibly invasive surgery. In addition to the pancreas, a total pancreatectomy involves the removal of the: gallbladder; common bile duct; portions of the small intestine and stomach; and most often the spleen.

Pancreatic enzyme replacement, dietary changes, acupuncture, and herbal supplements are all alternative therapeutic options often used to treat pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic enzyme replacement is the use of supplements in patients who have had all or part of their pancreas removed. In addition to insulin production, the pancreas is responsible for the production of enzymes that our bodies use to absorb nutrients during digestion. These particular supplements help the body to absorb those lost nutrients. Similarly, eating a more nutritious and balanced diet, which includes foods from the five main food groups (fruits and vegetables, fats, proteins, dairy, whole grains), will help to restore lost nutrients. Acupuncture is another alternative to help treat nausea, which many people with pancreatic cancer often experience. Herbal supplements may be a good alternative for those who wish to attempt a more holistic approach to treatment. Herbal supplements like daily vitamins, green tea, fish oils high in Omega-3, curcumin (derivative of turmeric), may help in shrinking tumor growth.

While there are many treatment options available, the circumstances may necessitate or eventually indicate that treatment is no longer practical or beneficial. In other cases, especially where the cancer is advanced, patients may refuse to undergo or continue treatment altogether. In these instances, palliative or hospice care is provided. Sometimes referred to as “dying with dignity,” palliative/hospice care is a type of care and philosophy that focuses on treatment of pain and symptoms, all while attending to the patient’s emotional and spiritual needs.

Learning that you or a loved one has pancreatic cancer is life-changing, but learning that you or your loved one’s development of the disease could have possibly been prevented is absolutely devastating. Based on compelling scientific research, the manufacturers of these diabetes medications (Januvia, Janumet, Tradjenta, Byetta, Victoza, Onglyza, etc.) should have known that using these drugs would increase a diabetic’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Shockingly, the manufacturers have done absolutely nothing to warn users of the potentially life-ending dangers their defective drugs may cause. By neglecting to adequately warn doctors and patients, these manufacturers’ have made billions, all while jeopardizing the lives of millions. If you or a loved one is a diabetic and have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, The Yost Legal Group may be able to help. Our team of experienced legal professionals is here to offer you free, individual consultation. We serve as the voice of our clients to hold Big Pharma accountable and obtain the justice each one so rightfully deserves. Call The Yost Legal Group (1-800-YOST-LAW) today. Let us be your voice.