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Docs: Grim prognosis

Sanka Price

Docs: Grim prognosis

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CANCER OF THE PANCREAS is often a fatal diagnosis, but there have been successful individual outcomes.
This was the reaction from three specialist doctors to yesterday’s disclosure by Dr Richard Ishmael that Prime Minister David Thompson is suffering with this cancer.
“As a general rule it is not easily curable,” said gastroenterologist Dr Stephen Griffith, who explained this was due to the often advanced stage at which a diagnosis was made.
“It is, unfortunately, detected late and would often have spread beyond the point that can achieve a cure. That’s because of the location of the pancreas; it is very deep inside the body and sometimes not easy to home in on,” Griffith added.
Similarly, gastroenterologist Dr Kwame Victor Connell said that pancreatic cancer “is a serious disease to get”, with a high mortality rate.
“In terms of the prognosis, I am not able to comment because I do not have all the data before me, but . . . we just have to wait and see the outcome of the ongoing therapy that he is taking at this point,” he said.
The internal medicine specialist said that the pancreas is near to very large, important blood vessels and that is why the tumour which the Prime Minister developed could not be removed.
“So the process is to try to reduce its size to make it amenable to resection.
“Now he [Dr Ishmael] also made mention of the fact that [the Prime Minister] formed a clot, and that is one of the complications that can occur as a result of pancreatic cancer, wherein the body has an increased tendency to form clots.
“That is now being dealt with from what he said, with medication to try to thin the clot to help it dissolve,” said Connell.
From a surgical perspective, though, the formation of clots and use of blood thinners to reduce them complicates the prospect for surgery, said consultant surgeon Dr Jerome Walcott.
“Surgery is best option for persons whose cancer can be safely and effectively removed. Having said that, cancer of the pancreas is one of the most challenging cancers to treat, as it is usually diagnosed late and spreads to surrounding tissues rapidly,” he said.
“The operation – pancreatico-duodenectomy (Whipple procedure) – involves the removal of part of the pancreas, the duodenum, part of the stomach, the gall bladder, part of the common bile duct, a section of the jejunum and the adjacent lymph nodes.”
Quizzed on the recovery prospects for Thompson, Connell declined comment as he was not privy to the specifics of the Prime Minister’s case, but noted that “the overall five-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer is less than five per cent and the medium survival is four to six months”.