Helping pancreatic patients in their struggle | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse
 In Lifehouse News

Dr Payal Saxena is a part of the medical team at Chris O`Brien Lifehouse working in gastroenterology, hepatology and interventional endoscopy. Payal treats patients with oesophagus, stomach, colon, pancreas, gall bladder and bile duct disorders. Her special interest is in pancreatic disease, including pancreatic cancer, cysts, acute and chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic insufficiency.

Payal began working at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in 2014 after two years at the renowned John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, one of the best hospitals in the world in terms of practice, model of care and facilities.

She says about coming to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse: “To come out of one world-class environment and into this one was amazing – it’s the same standard of technology and equipment. I was absolutely blown away by the quality; there’s nothing that I cannot do here in terms of procedures.”

Payal is a member of the international Cancer of the Pancreas Screening (CAPS) program where she collaborates with other clinicians from around the world on a global study on screening for pancreatic cancer. By detecting cancer early, patients can be offered surgery that could cure them rather than have the cancer picked up further down the track, when their outcome may not have been as good.

Pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common cancer in men and the ninth in women in Australia. It’s estimated that in 2017, there will be nearly 3,200 new cases of pancreatic cancer. Survival rates have not changed significantly in the last 40 years.

This is where Payal steps in. She gets involved right at the beginning of a patient’s journey. She performs screening and helps patients after they have received their diagnosis. Working with patients and a multidisciplinary team, Payal plans their treatment to help relieve the symptoms caused by pancreatic cancer.

Symptoms we should all be aware of:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Changed bowel movements (either diarrhoea or severe constipation)
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes, and dark urine)

A few less common symptoms:

  • Severe back pain
  • Onset of diabetes

Causes of pancreatic cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Age (occurs mostly in people over the age of 65)
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of pancreatic, ovarian or colon cancer
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Pancreatitis
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