Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes that help the body digest food, and it also produces hormones that regulate blood sugar levels.
Pancreatic cancer usually starts in the cells lining the pancreas' ducts. These cells are called exocrine cells. Less often, cancer can start in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas, called islet cells.
If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it is crucial to understand all of your treatment options. Unfortunately, this type of cancer is tough to treat, and the outlook is often not good. However, a few things can be done to improve your chances of survival.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The survival rates are pretty low, and treatment options are also limited.
However, researchers are constantly working on new ways to improve the treatment and detection of the disease.
In the meantime, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your risk.
Pancreatic cancer forms when the cells of the organ experience mutations, which lead them to multiply uncontrollably, forming a mass of tissue as a result. This mass of tissue can be cancerous or non-cancerous.
Pancreatic cancer exists in two types:
- Exocrine tumors (including adenocarcinoma)
Neuroendocrine tumors arise from islet cells of the pancreas and are usually less aggressive. Exocrine tumors make up around 95% of all pancreatic cancers and develop from cells that line the ducts of the pancreas.
Pancreatic cancer causes are not certain, and there is no single pointed-out cause of the disease. But, it is crucial to understand the risk aspects associated with gastric cancer.
Below are factors that increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer:
- Tobacco use – Smoking tobacco accounts for approximately 35% of gastric cancer cases.
- Heavy alcoholism – Too much alcohol intake contributes to the risk of getting pancreatic cancer. Heavy drinking also causes chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
- Hereditary- Pancreatic cancer can be passed down from parent to offspring through genes.
- Age – People between the ages of 65 and 75 are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
- Diabetes – Patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- Obesity - Being overweight increases the likelihood of developing this cancer.
- Exposure to harsh working conditions involving chemicals, especially those used in pesticides and metal works, is a factor that has contributed to 12% of gastric cancer cases.
- Infections like H. Pylori can cause pancreatic cancer, although the direct link to the disease isn't clear.
- Gender - According to studies, men have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer than women.
- Race - African-Americans are at a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than other races.
Many people have a challenge detecting pancreatic cancer at its early stages. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are most noticeable as it progresses. Common symptoms include:
- Jaundice and yellowing of the skin
- Weight loss
- Light-colored poop and dark-colored pee
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite loss
- Itchy skin
- Upper stomach pain that extends to the back
- Blood clots within the body, especially in the legs, cause pain, redness, and swelling.
- Worsening diabetes
- Lower back pain
- Worsening of pre-existing diabetes
It is important to note that these symptoms can also result from other less alarming health issues.
Who Gets It
According to the research, Pancreatic cancer represents 3% of all cancers and 7% of deaths in the USA. Anybody can develop the disease, especially if the risk factors are high. More men develop Pancreatic cancer than women.
How to Prevent
What Research Says
Pancreatic cancer is among the most aggressive complications of the digestive tract. Researchers term the pancreatic cancer survival rates** **at 9% five years after treatment and diagnosis.
They say that the lifestyle direction you take determines how healthy you can get; the healthier you live, the safer.
Researchers at the American cancer society are determined to come up with a new treatment for pancreatic cancer.** Successful **pancreatic cancer treatment happens if detected early.
Researchers are also focused on improving radiation therapy and surgery and determining the best combination of treatments for certain stages of the disease.
It is challenging to tell how to prevent pancreatic cancer because the cause is also uncertain. However, the tips below can help reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer:
- Avoid/stop smoking
- Eat healthily and exercise to maintain a normal weight
- Quit drinking alcohol or do it in moderation
- Try to control your blood sugar levels to prevent diabetes
- If you are exposed to harsh chemicals, always use safety equipment.
Tests & Diagnosis
How is it given?
It is best to see a healthcare provider as soon as you notice strange symptoms. If you are associated with any of the above risk factors, you have more reason to seek a significant diagnosis immediately.
If the doctor suspects you have pancreatic cancer, he may order an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) to assess the internal organs.
EUS involves running a thin tube with a camera through the mouth to the stomach. The endoscope takes pictures of the pancreas through the stomach wall. A sample tissue (biopsy) from the pancreas can also be obtained during the process for further diagnosis.
The doctor may also perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans to get a detailed picture of the organ.
The doctor may administer blood tests to detect the presence of tumor marker CA 19-9, which indicates possible pancreatic cancer.