A SILENT DISEASE: Because symptoms aren't always present, detecting pancreatic cancer is difficult. It is also sometimes referred to as a "silent disease" because early pancreatic cancer usually doesn't cause any symptoms. As it progresses, later symptoms can include pain in the upper abdomen, appetite loss, significant weight loss and jaundice. Smoking, diabetes and chronic pancreatitis are risk factors for the disease, as well as being a male over 60 and black. Diagnostic tests like chest X-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET scans and endoscopic ultrasounds are often used to reveal abnormalities.
A REVEALING LIGHT: Researchers at the University of Michigan are investigating whether light can help detect pancreatic and other cancers in their early stages. "Until better treatment approaches can be developed, the only opportunity to change disease-associated mortality in pancreatic cancer patients is early diagnosis," Mary-Ann Mycek, an associate professor and associate chair of the University of Michigan's Department of Biomedical Engineering, was quoted as saying. Their goal is to help doctors distinguish between cancerous tissue changes and benign changes due to disease.
"The idea of our research project is to use light to characterize what is going on inside a tissue," James Scheiman, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., told Ivanhoe. Tissue optical spectroscopy could revolutionize cancer diagnosis. Optical spectroscopy would be used during minimally-invasive endoscopic diagnostic procedures. Tissue properties are altered in the presence of disease. Optical diagnostic tools that shine light through the tissue would look for those signs of disease that could then be treated. "We are looking at how the tissue and the molecules of the tissue are actually affected for a variety of different light properties," Dr. Scheiman explained. Experts say light is safe for the body because of its non-ionizing radiation and also low in cost compared to existing diagnostic technologies.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
University of Michigan Medical Center