Types of Pancreatic Cancer
Two major categories:
- Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors- are cancer of the endocrine pancreas the part that makes insulin and other hormones.
- Pancreatic adenocarcinomas- These are more common and are cancers of the exocrine pancreas.
Risk factors for Pancreatic Cancer
There are no specific causes leading to pancreatic cancer, however certain risk factors increase the chances of having cancer, these are:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Leading a sedentary life without exercise
- An eating diet rich in fat content
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol
- Having diabetes
- Exposure to chemicals
- Having chronic inflammation of the pancreas
- Having liver damage
- Having a family history of pancreatic cancer
Signs and symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Signs and symptoms depend on the stage and type of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer usually doesn’t give rise to any signs and symptoms in early stages, this is the reason why it is difficult to detect and diagnose pancreatic cancer.
- Abdominal pain: Present in 70% of the cases, starts with generalized pain in the abdomen which spreads to back, worse after eating or while lying down, better when sitting forward.
- Weight loss: Loss of appetite and losing weight for no particular reason.
- Bowel problem: Steatorrhoea is a common symptom of pancreatic cancer, as cancer affects the production of enzymes needed to digest food, particularly high-fat food.
- Nausea, Indigestion: Can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer especially in older people
- Diabetes: Pancreas produces hormone insulin which body needs to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood, so pancreatic cancer often leads to diabetes especially in older people.
- Back pain: Pain in the upper back can occur if cancer spreads to nerves around the pancreas
Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis
- Imaging tests are important to diagnose Pancreatic Cancer - ultrasound, Computerized Tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans.
- ERCP- uses an ultrasound device to make images of your pancreas from inside your abdomen. The device is passed through a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) down your esophagus and into your stomach in order to obtain the images.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope, may obtain a sample of tissue from the pancreas by inserting a needle through your skin and into your pancreas fine-needle aspiration or take a sample during EUS, guiding special tools into the pancreas.
- Blood Test: Testing blood for specific proteins (tumor markers) Tumor marker test used in pancreatic cancer is called CA19-9.
Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the stage and location of cancer as well as on overall health and other comorbid conditions. The first goal of pancreatic cancer treatment is to eliminate cancer, if possible.
When pancreatic cancer is advanced, palliative care is provided to improve the quality of life and preventing cancer from spreading further. Treatment includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of these.
- Surgery: Patients with stage I and stage II cancers having localized cancer can be completely removed with surgery. The surgical procedure most commonly performed to remove a pancreatic cancer is a Whipple procedure. It often comprises removal of a portion of the stomach, the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), pancreas, a portion of the main bile duct, lymph nodes, and gallbladder.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy utilizes X-rays and other high-energy beams to kill the cancer cells. Patients with stage III cancers having a locally advanced disease, where complete is a cure not possible. Here treatments such as radiation are given, these lower the risk of local growth of the cancer
- Chemotherapy: Cancer-killing drugs are used to help prevent future growth of cancer cells. In patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy is most commonly recommended as a means of controlling the symptoms related to cancer and extending life.
Factors affecting the cost of treatment of Pancreatic Cancer
The cost to the patient depends on a variety of factors like:
- The hospital patient chooses
- The type of room
- Fees for the team of doctors
- Medicine cost
- Cost of Tests and diagnostic procedure
- Type of treatment -Cost of surgery, cost of radiotherapy, cost of chemotherapy
- Cost of follow-up care required