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Study helps pancreatic cancer patients make hard choices
Date:8/23/2012

Every year, nearly 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The odds against those stricken by the disease are truly dismal; pancreatic cancer almost always kills within two years after diagnosis, no matter how it is treated. Even aggressive intervention with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery rarely yields more than an extra month to a year of survival, depending on the stage of the disease.

This raises a tough question: should patients who know they are going to die soon spend a substantial amount of what little time they have left undergoing aggressive and difficult treatment treatment likely to bring them only a brief period of additional life?

"It's about balancing quality and quantity of life, really," said Dr. Casey Boyd, a University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston surgery resident and lead author of a paper analyzing the problem in the current issue of Annals of Surgical Oncology. "For pancreatic cancer we know the quantity of life is short, so maximizing the quality of life is important and the best way we can do that is to give patients concrete data that they can look at and use in their treatment decisions."

Boyd and her colleagues approached the issue by drawing on the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database, examining SEER records for 25,476 pancreatic cancer patients and focusing on two factors that directly affect patients' lives: hospital days and days spent in medical care. (Hospital days were days spent as hospital inpatients, while medical care days included days in the hospital as well as other days on which the patient visited a physician, underwent a diagnostic test, or received a treatment).

"This study is the first to bring together hospital and medical care days in pancreatic cancer patients with stage, treatment and survival, and it gives us a quantitative look at the whole experience of a patient with pancreatic cancer," Boyd sa
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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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