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Pancreatic cancer treatment offers hope to early-stage patients

Early-stage pancreatic cancer patients in Illinois and worldwide could live longer with the help of a four-drug chemotherapy combo, according to a new study. The combo could become the new standard of care for patients who qualify for surgery.

For the study, which was conducted at France's Cancer Institute of Lorraine, nearly 500 patients with early ductal tumors were treated with either the four-drug combo, called folfirinox, or the current standard chemo drug, called Gemzar. An average of three years later, nearly 40 percent of those who received folfirinox were cancer-free, and nearly two-thirds were still living. In comparison, approximately 20 percent of those who received Gemzar were cancer-free, and nearly 50 percent were still living.

Doctors diagnose around 330,000 cases of pancreatic cancer around the world each year. Only 15 percent of those cases are diagnosed early enough to qualify for surgery. This is because symptoms of the disease, which include abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss, rarely appear until the disease has spread. Unfortunately, most patients die within a year of being diagnosed. However, the results of the study are being touted as the greatest treatment advancement for pancreatic cancer in 25 years. Folfirinox is now expected to become the top treatment for early-stage patients. It is already used to treat patients who suffer from later stages of the disease.

A pancreatic cancer patient's chances of survival depend on an early diagnosis. Patients who experience a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. An attorney could help a patient document his or her claim and work to negotiate a financial settlement. If a patient dies due to medical malpractice, his or her family could also seek financial compensation.

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