What is Pancreatic Cancer?
The pancreas is the gland that is located behind the stomach and in front of the spine. This gland produces the digestive juices and hormones that regulate blood sugar. Digestive juices are produced by the exocrine pancreas cells, where the hormones are produced by the endocrine pancreatic cells. When a malignant cell is formed in the tissue of the pancreas then it is called as pancreatic cancer. Cancer mostly starts in the exocrine cells. There are different types of pancreatic cancers, they are as follows:
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma: Mostly 90% of the people who are suffering from this cancer are referred to have this type of cancer. This cancer usually starts in the ducts of the pancreas. They develop the form of cells that make the pancreatic digestive enzymes, this is also called as acinar cell carcinomas.
Less common types of exocrine cancer: the other less exocrine cancers include adenosquamous carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, signet ring cell carcinomas, undifferentiated carcinomas and undifferentiated carcinomas with giant cells.
Ampullary cancer: This is a type of cancer that is started in the ampulla of Vater, which is the place where the bile duct and the pancreatic duct come together and empty into the small intestine. Ampullary cancers are not pancreatic cancers but they are to be treated in the same way. These ampullary cancers block the bile duct and which leads to yellowing of the skin and eyes. Because of this, they are found earlier than most pancreatic cancers.
What are the precancerous that grow in the pancreas?
Some growths in the pancreas are not the cancers they simply grow. While some may become cancer and even life-threatening these are known as pre-cancers. Now a day we find many people do imaging test as CT scans more often. These types of growths are not found often.
Serous Cystic Neoplasms: these are the tumors that have sacs filled with the fluids. These are also known as Serous Cystadenomas. They are not harmful. These need not be treated unless they grow large in size and cause symptoms.
Mucinous cystic neoplasms: these are the slow-growing tumors that have cysts filled with a jelly-like substance called Mucin. This is also known as Mucinous Cystadenomas. These tumors mostly occur in women. These are not cancers but some of them may develop into cancers if they are not treated, so these tumors are typically removed with the surgery.
Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms: these are also the tumors that are grown in the pancreatic duct. Like Mucinous Cystadenomas these also make mucin, if not treated they also develop into cancer. Some of these tumors are followed with the time but some should be removed by surgery if they are in the main pancreatic duct and if they have any certain features that are harmful.
Solid Pseudopapillary neoplasms: these tumors are developed in the young women which are rare and slow-growing. In spite of growing slowly, they even spread this tumor to different parts of the body. The best way to treat tumors is surgery.
What causes pancreatic cancer?
We don’t have a particular cause for pancreatic cancer. Some genes control the cells grow and divide them into new cells and die. The genes that help to grow and stay alive are called Oncogenes. The cells that help to keep the cell division under control or helps in the cause of cell death at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes. Cancers can be caused by the changes in the DNA, this may be caused in the Oncogenes or on the turn off tumor suppressor genes.
Inherited gene mutations are the changes that occur in the inherited gene from the parents may raise the risk of getting pancreatic cancer. Sometimes syndromes are responsible for the gene changes which may lead to other health problems. This may lead to a small portion of the pancreatic cancers.
Acquired gene mutations: the gene mutation that re caused when the person is born, rather than been inherited. This acquired gene mutations sometimes results in the cause of cancer due to some chemical exposure like tobacco smoking. The changes that occur due to some chemicals are not known. Sometimes the gene changes occur inside the cell, without having an outside cause.
There are some DNA changes that occur in the non-inherited cases of pancreatic cancer are same to those which are seen in the inherited cases, many pancreatic cancers that have changed in the genes such as KRAS, BRAF, and DPC4, which are not a part of an inherited syndrome. Other gene changes can also be found in pancreatic cancers, even though they are no specific reason for why these changes have occurred.
What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Early-stage of pancreatic cancer do not show any signs and symptoms. We can only observe the symptoms only when it is grown very large or already spread outside the pancreas.
- When pancreatic cancer spreads, it often goes to the liver then the symptoms are like this firstly results in the cause of jaundice and yellowing of the eyes and skin. Dark urine, light-colored and greasy stools, itchy skin. Basically, cancer starts in the head of the pancreas near the bile duct this enlargement results in the blocking of the bile duct and increases the bilirubin in the body which may affect the intestines.
- Back pain and belly pain is a common factor in pancreatic cancer. Cancers that start in the body or tail of the pancreas can grow in large size and start pressing the organ that is near and cause pain. This is also spread to the nerves around the pancreas, which results in the cause of back pain.
- Weight loss is very common in the people who are suffering from pancreatic cancer and they have low or no appetite.
- If cancer presses the far end of the stomach and this will not allow the food to pass through it freely. This results in nausea, vomiting, and pain that tend to be worst after eating.
- Pancreatic cancer can also sometimes enlarge the liver, especially if cancer has spread by there. Then the doctor might be able to feel the edge of the liver below the right ribcage on an exam, by conducting imaging tests.
- Pancreatic cancer sometimes results in the clotting of blood in the large vein, often in the leg. This called deep vein thrombosis. This results in the pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected leg.
What factors that cause risk in pancreatic cancer?
The risk factors are that increase the chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors can be changed and may not be changed. In some case the risk factors that may decrease the risk of developing into cancer or has an unclear effect. In some cases having risk factors that cause or even many does not mean that you will not get any cancer. Or some people who are having some or many factors it’s there will not be any chance of getting pancreatic cancer.
Risk factors that can be changed are:
- Smoking is one of the most important risk factors that cause pancreatic cancer. High smokers are at high risk when compared to the people who have never smoked. About 25% of that pancreatic cancer cases are due to cigarette smoking. Cigar smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco products can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Being over-weighted is one of the risk factors of having pancreatic cancer. Over 20% of the people who are having this cancer suffering are due to obesity.
- Heavy exposure to chemicals at the workplace may also lead to the chance of getting pancreatic cancer.
Risk factors that can’t be changed:
- As there is an increase in the age of the person then there is a chance of developing pancreatic cancer. All patients are older than 45.
- Men are at risk of developing pancreatic cancer when compared to women. Because men consume more amounts of tobacco and alcohol than in women.
- African American is most likely to have pancreatic cancer when compared to whites. There may be some other risks for the cause of pancreatic cancer are diabetes, smoking and being overweight.
- Sometimes family history plays a major role in the causes of pancreatic cancer. This is caused due to the inherited syndrome. And for some who are affected by pancreatic cancer do not have a family history.
- The inherited genetic syndrome can be passed from parent to the child. Due to this genetic changes only 10% of pancreatic cancers. Some times this also results in the cause of other cancers. Like hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, hereditary breast cancer, familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndromes, familial pancreatitis, lynch syndrome and putz-jeghers syndrome.
- Pancreatic cancer is more common in people with diabetes. The reason for this is not known. Type 2 diabetes people are found to be at a high risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Chronic pancreatitis, a long term inflammation of the pancreas, is linked with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, but most of the people with pancreatitis never developed pancreatic cancer.
- Heavy alcohol consumption may also cause chronic pancreatitis which may lead to pancreatic cancer.
- Lack of physical activity might increase pancreatic cancer.
- There are some infections of the stomach that causes ulcers. The bacteria that causes ulcers are bacteria helicobacter pylori or the infection with hepatitis B may increase the chance of getting pancreatic cancer.
How pancreatic cancer is treated?
There are various types of treatments are available for patients with pancreatic cancer. For some treatments are standard, some are to be done in the clinical trials. There are five types of standard treatments surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy. Again these are subdivided into different categories let us know them in detail.
Surgery is used to take out the tumor. The following methods are used to do surgery.
Whipple procedure: this is a surgical procedure in which the head of the pancreas, the gall bladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, and the bile duct are removed. A part of the pancreas is left to produce digestive juices and insulin.
Total pancreatectomy: This operation removes the whole pancreas, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, the spleen, and the nearby lymph nodes.
Distal pancreatectomy: In this surgery, the grown body and the tail of the pancreas are removed. The spleen may also be removed if cancer spreads to it.
If cancer spreads to the rest of the parts, the following types of palliative surgery are done to relieve from the symptoms and to improve the quality of living.
Biliary Bypass: This bypass surgery is done if the cancer is blocking the bile duct and if it is building up in the gall bladder. In this, the doctor will cut the gallbladder and the bile duct in the area where it is blocking and then stitches it to the small intestine to create a new path.
Endoscopic stent placement: in this surgery, the will put the stent to drain the bile in the affected area, if the tumor is blocking the bile duct. The doctor may drain the bile into the catheter which is placed outside the body or maybe drained into the small intestine.
Gastric Bypass: If the tumor is blocking the flow of the stomach, then the doctor will directly attach to the small intestine. So that the patient can eat normally.
Radiation therapy: This is used to treat cancer. To treat pancreatic cancer External radiation therapy is used. They use high x-rays or other types of radiation to kill the cancer cells and tries to stop them from growing. This radiation process depends upon the type and stage of cancer. This therapy is divided into two therapies they are,
External radiation therapy, to send the radiation to cancer, a machine outside the body.
Internal radiation therapy. In this, they directly place the radioactive substances are sealed in the needles, seeds, wires or catheters near to cancer.
Chemoradiation therapy: in this both the chemotherapy and the radiation therapy are used to get the best results of treatment.
Targeted therapy: in this treatment, they use drugs and other substance to identify and attack the specific cancer cells without harming the normal cells. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are the rugs that are used in the targeted therapy, these drugs help to block the signals that are needed for the tumors to grow. Erlotinib is a drug that is used to treat pancreatic cancer.
Biological therapy: This treatment is also called immunotherapy. In this treatment, they use the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. To restore the body’s natural defense against cancer, in the laboratory, they prepare the substances which are normally made by the body and restore it in our body.
Foods that should be eaten? The person who is suffering from this pancreatic cancer should take the foods that are high in nutrition and should be easily digested and absorbed by the body. And should drink lots of water which helps in the easy digestion of the food.
Beneficial foods that should be taken by the patient are:
Fruits and vegetables: The person is suggested to eat cooked vegetables so that it will be easier for them to tolerate than raw food. They are also recommended to eat non-starchy vegetables and foods for at least five times a day. They should take the food that is high in antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals are berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables. Eating blueberries, broccoli, oranges, kale, spinach are also good.
Lean protein: Protein-rich foods bolster the immune system and help to repair the cells and tissues that are damaged. Eggs, nut butter, tofu, fish, and poultry are the proteins that are easily digested.
High fiber starches: Complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber and also keep the energy levels up. The foods that are rich in B vitamin are potatoes, beans, lentils, oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice, these foods reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Green tea contains polyphenols, these have anti-cancer properties.
Healthy fats: Fats are necessary for overall health. It supplies energy and helps to maintain the core body temperature. Healthy fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
Foods to be avoided:
- Avoid eating red meat and processed meat, they are hard to digest and also helps to develop cancer.
- High-fat foods can increase the uncomfortable symptoms, such as diarrhea and gas.
- Heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk of cancer and worsen the symptoms if the patient already has pancreatic cancer.
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates are taken then the patient may face the difficulty indigestion.
What are the side effects of pancreatic cancer?
The side effects of cancer depend upon the treatment that the patient is getting. Every patient will have different experiences. The specific treatment will have specific side effects:
Side effects due to surgery: After that pancreatic surgery, the patient may experience diarrhea, constipation and appetite loss while your stomach regains the function. After the surgery, they need a lot of time to recover from the procedure. There may be many potential signs of infections may occur. The side effects may involve pneumonia, cardiac problems, and pulmonary embolism.
Side effects of chemotherapy: In chemotherapy, the medication is designed to destroy the pancreatic cancer cells, but at the same time they may also damage the cells that are healthy, as a result, the patient may experience, hair loss, nausea, dry or itchy skin, sore In the mouth or gums, constipation, and diarrhea. It also causes the white blood cell count to drop and make to your body porn to pancreatic cancer treatment and also results in the fatigued.
Side effects of radiation therapy: There are some side effects that are caused in radiation therapy, the skin, and the stomach will become tender and red due to the exposure to radiation. At that time the patient may experience appetite loss, diarrhea or nausea.