Doctors will continue to watch for stress as Budget looms
Published 07/09/2010 | 05:00
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's announcement that his pancreatic cancer has "stabilised" is considered a good outcome after months of therapy to reduce the tumour and, crucially, prevent it spreading.
The pancreas is found behind the stomach where the ribs meet the end of the breast bone. Mr Lenihan previously said that doctors who diagnosed the disease at the end of last year found he had no secondary cancer.
When he started treatment at the beginning of the year he also said the cancer could not be operated on because the tumour was near a blood vessel. Since then he has undergone six months of chemotherapy and weeks of radiotherapy.
He is now free of the tiring side-effects of these treatments, but not yet of the disease. His condition will be monitored carefully in the coming weeks as he heads into the stresses of preparing one of the harshest budgets in years.
Chemotherapy is taken in tablet form or is given through a vein. Radiotherapy works with high-energy rays that kill cancer cells and reduce tumours and is usually administered for weeks rather than months.
Doctors will aim to ensure that no cancer cells have escaped from the pancreas that could travel to other parts of the body and possibly grow into tumours later.
He has not suffered any hair loss but is slimmer, which is probably due to a combination of healthy living and the effects of treatment on the appetite.
Every patient is different and Mr Lenihan (51) is not typical of people who get pancreatic cancer -- the majority of whom are more than 70 years old.
About 370 people here have been diagnosed with the same form of cancer this year and doctors warn against relying too much on general statistics on what the chances are of getting better. This is because there are so many variables to consider, including the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed, a person's age and their general health.