Getting a positive diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is one of the most frightening things to hear from a doctor. This particular form of cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all types of cancer for a few very striking reasons. Responsible for an estimated 41,000 American deaths each year, pancreatic cancer has a survival rate of less than 10 percent. Researchers are hoping, however, that a new surgical tool may provide them a life-saving, or at least, life-extending edge. Known as the Canady Helios Cold Plasma Scalpel, the new tool is providing hope where it had once been lost.
The new scalpel is employed after a surgeon after a pancreatic tumor is removed. It operates at a very low temperature and enables the surgeon to remove surrounding cancerous tissue and cells. It is able to specifically target cancer cells while sparing tissue that is healthy in the process. The scalpel may offer a life-saving edge by enabling surgeons to not only remove the main tumor, but help prevent a return of the cancer down the road.
Although still very much under study, the scalpel may offer a way to successfully treat pancreatic cancer that was once deemed inoperable. Whether it will provide a “cure” for the disease remains to be seen, current tests have shown it is able to extend anticipated lifespan in some patients with pancreatic cancer.
The potential the plasma scalpel holds may very well represent a tremendous step forward in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. This form of the disease is deemed so deadly because it generally develops and progresses with no symptoms at first. Considering the location of the pancreas in the body, it is also tremendously difficult to detect early and treat. Since most patients are not diagnosed until the cancer has progressed to later stages, outcome is generally less than satisfactory even when treatments are performed. In some cases, surgery may be deemed inappropriate because the chances for success are so low. The scalpel could change that.
With an estimated 53,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed each year in America, researchers have been working hard to develop new treatments for this disease. Breakthroughs like the cold scalpel could pave the way for better outcomes for patients. The next step for this tool is full-blown clinical trials. How soon those may occur remains unknown.
People who are concerned about their risks for pancreatic cancer are urged to speak with their doctors. Family history of the disease, diabetes and chronic pancreatitis may raise a person’s risk level for developing pancreatic cancer. Routine early screening for the disease is not yet available, but those at especially high risk will find screening tests are available to them.