What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Content is medically reviewed by:

Dr. Udaya Kumar Maiya (MBBS, MD, DNB(RT), DCCF (Paris), Medical Director, Portea.

Pancreatic Cancer definition clinically states it as the rapid division and multiplication of abnormal cells in the pancreas. When these cells continue to grow and divide, they inhibit digestive functions or interfere with the proper production of hormones in the pancreas. What makes this condition dangerous is the fact that it often goes undetected until it reaches its advanced stages. Early pancreatic cancer stages are medically undiagnosable, and it is close to impossible to identify its early signs and symptoms. Advanced pancreatic cancer symptoms include unexplained weight loss, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, sudden changes in bowel activity, blood clots, shivering, nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.

Pancreatic cancer cases are common in people aged 75 and above, and this condition is very rarely found in people below 40 years old. Although diabetics are not directly at risk of developing this condition, clinical statistics show a correlation between increased incidences of this condition in those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Smoking, poor nutrition and an unhealthy lifestyle contribute towards its development in the long-term. Pancreatic cancer treatment options available in the medical field are chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and clinical trials.

 

Types of Pancreatic Cancer

There are different types of pancreatic cancer based on which sections of the pancreas get affected. Generally speaking, these are the two main pancreatic cancer types in patients:

-Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer – The part of your pancreas that is responsible for the production of digestive substances is known as the Exocrine Pancreas. When cancerous tumours develop in this region, it is referred to as exocrine pancreatic cancer, and 95% of pancreatic cancer cases belong to this type.

-Endocrine Pancreatic Cancer – Cells of the pancreas are responsible for the production of hormones which pass into the bloodstream directly. Any cancerous tumours emerging from these different hormone-producing cells lead to endocrine pancreatic cancer.

 

What are some of the pancreatic cancer causes?

Although age is one of the leading factors of pancreatic cancer, higher incidences of pancreatic cancer symptoms have been reported in people who have diabetes and obesity. Other different pancreatic cancer causes are:

-Medical history of chronic pancreatitis and stomach ulcers

-Chain smoking

-Genetics

-Inherited conditions and diseases like Lynch or Peutz-Jegher’s syndrome

 

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

When you first visit your general physician for medical diagnosis, he/she will take a look at your abdomen and look for signs of an enlarged liver. Your GP may ask for a blood and urine sample and analyse it. Upon further investigation, if believed that there may be a case of pancreatic cancer, you may be recommended to take the following pancreatic screening tests:

-Ultrasound Scan: High-frequency sound waves image different internal organs in your body, including the pancreas

-CT Scan: X-rays and a computer are used to render detailed images of the pancreas and surrounding internal organs

-MRI Scan: Strong magnetic fields and radio waves inside a tube where you lie inside are used to provide detailed images of your body’s internal organs.

-PET Scan/PET-CT Scan: This scan involves rendering detailed 3D images of your internal organs and highlights any abnormalities in their functioning.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Pancreatic cancer treatment is an option for those who have early stages of pancreatic cancer after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer tests. When treatment is not possible in its extreme stages, your doctor may recommend palliative care to relieve pancreatic cancer symptoms and prevent your condition from worsening. Here are the following pancreatic cancer treatment options:

 

-Surgery:

Pancreatic cancer surgical procedures may involve removing sections of tumour cells or the entire pancreas in severe cases. Surgical procedures may involve removing surrounding sections of the pancreas in cases like the Whipple Procedure where the head and marginal tissues are removed.

-Chemotherapy:

Intravenous drugs may be administered or medications are given orally in chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy is designed for treating cases where cancer spreads beyond the pancreas to nearby and surrounding internal organs.

-Radiotherapy:

Radiotherapy or radiation therapy is used before or after pancreatic cancer surgeries to destroy remaining cancerous cells or shrink them to the point where performing the surgery becomes possible.

-Clinical Trials:

Clinical trials are uncharted territories, and anything could go on when you sign up for them. This is another option to those who are open to new and untested methods of treatment or if they have run out of options for effective treatment. In some cases, clinical trials use a combination of various medical therapy treatments to treat cancer, and on some occasions, they may cause serious side effects as any specific cures aren’t guaranteed.

-Palliative Care:

When treating pancreatic cancer is no longer an option, the next step is to prevent it from worsening. This is where palliative care comes in where patients are given supportive care for obtaining relief from their symptoms. Nurses for pancreatic cancer and a team of specialists work alongside the patient to give them the support they require and palliative care covers many aspects of their medical lifestyle such as nutrition and emotional and psychological support.

When do you need us?

Part of pancreatic cancer treatment is palliative (supportive) care. It involves taking care of your nutrition, emotions, and mental health. Patients may find it debilitating to deal with the after-effects of pancreatic cancer post-surgery, and the condition becomes difficult to cope with. This is where our team of nurses and healthcare specialists come into your life and guide in your journey by providing pancreatic cancer home treatment. Our doctors visit your home to assess your condition and suggest the best course of action accordingly, be it supportive care, surgery, or any other medical therapies.

 

How can we help

Our team of nurses and therapists can help you with the psychological and emotional support you need before, during, and after pancreatic surgery. After taking a pancreatic cancer diagnostic test, they will design and develop a pancreatic cancer treatment at home plan based on your condition. When appropriate pancreatic cancer care at home is provided to you, you experience a higher chance of survival and continue to improve your quality of life post-surgery.

 

Summary

Life doesn’t stop at pancreatic cancer, and you can continue to enjoy a fully functional life post-surgery. Patients may have to live with certain lifestyle implications post-surgery based on their condition and overall health.

 

Ratings by patients

 

Portea: (4 / 5) (19 feedbacks)

Google Reviews: (3.6 / 5) (462 reviewers)

 

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20355421

https://www.webmd.com/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/default.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancreatic_cancer

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