Pancreatic CancerCancer » Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is a malignant neoplasm which forms in the tissues of pancreas. This cancer is sometimes called a "silent killer" because early pancreatic cancer often does not cause symptoms, and the later symptoms are usually nonspecific and varied.
Pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The gland produces a hormone called insulin, which helps in maintaining the blood glucose level. The pancreas also produce certain enzymes that help the body to digest food.
Types of pancreatic cancer:
The type of cancer is based on the cell type and location of the tumor in the pancreas. There are two types of cells in the pancreas, the exocrine cells and endocrine cells.
Exocrine cancers: Most of these exocrine pancreatic cancers are ductal adenocarcinomas. These cancers start in the cells lining the ducts of the pancreas. The ducts are the tubes that carry the pancreatic digestive juices to the main pancreatic duct.
Cystic tumors: Tumors that cause fluid filled sacs in the pancreas.
Acinar cell cancers: Tumors that form on the ends of the pancreatic ducts in the cells that produce enzymes.
Sarcomas: Tumors that form in the connective tissue that bonds together the pancreatic cells.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms
Abdominal pain: this is a common symptom which occurs on the upper abdomen and may even radiate to the back.
Yellowing of the skin and eyes: Jaundice, a painless condition marked by the yellowing of the skin and eyes. It occurs when an increased level of bilirubin is in the blood. Itchy Skin: This is a less common symptom found in this disease.
Nausea or vomiting: Obstruction of digestive tract by tumour. Weight Loss: Loss of appetite.
Change in color of stool and urine: Urine may become much darker, while stool lose their brown color. This is often due to the bile duct being blocked.
Male sex: the male-to-female ratio of pancreatic cancer is 1.3:1
Diabetes: Diabetes is also a symptom of pancreatic cancer. Long-standing adult-onset diabetes also increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Diet: Diets high in meats, cholesterol fried foods and nitrosamines may increase risk, while diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce risk.
Pancreatic Cancer Treatments
Surgery: The treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. The whipple procedure is the most common surgical treatment. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, some of the nearby tissues. If the operation is done to remove the whole pancreas, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, the gallbladder, and nearby lymph nodes then the procedure is called Total pancreatectomy.
The another one is called Distal pancreatectomy, in which the body and tail of the pancreas and usually the spleen are removed. The surgery can be performed for palliation, if the malignancy is invading or compressing the duodenum or colon. In that case, bypass surgery might overcome the obstruction and improve quality of life, but it is not intended as a cure.
Radiation therapy: This therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy, uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy, uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, or wires that are placed directly into or near the cancer.
Chemotherapy: The treatment uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. In patients not suitable for resection with curative, palliative chemotherapy may be used to improve quality of life and gain a modest survival benefit. This therapy is a systematic treatment, where the drugs flow through the bloodstream to nearly every part of the body to kill cancerous cells. It is generally given in cycles.
Biological therapy: The use of biological therapy (using the body's immune system to fight cancer) is being tested for pancreatic cancer. Biological therapy searches for ways that the cancer tissue is different from normal tissues, and tries to get the body to fight the cancer. It uses material made by the body or made in the laboratory to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against disease. These therapies are sometimes called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy or immunotherapy.
The reports published during the past year sound encouraging for the future of pancreatic cancer biomarkers.