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Key Information About Pancreatic Cancer

Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Overview

Pancreatic cancer refers to tumors that start in the cells of the pancreas. It is also known as exocrine cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most commonly occurring cancer in men and the 11th most commonly occurring cancer in women. There were 460,000 new cases in 2018.

Pancreatic cancer is expected to be the second common cause of death in the United States of America by 2030.

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Causes

Diets high in meats, cholesterol, fried foods and nitrosamines may increase pancreatic cancer risk.

Most gene mutations related to pancreatic cancer occur after a person is born, rather than having been inherited.

These acquired gene mutations sometimes result from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. One of the main drivers behind pancreatic cancer is the KRAS oncogene.

“High-risk groups are familial pancreatic cancer kindreds but also genetic mutation carriers. These include CDKN2A, also called p16. These p16 mutation carriers have a 15% to 20% lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer....," DCF Klatte, MD, of Leiden University Medical Center, said.

Half of all new cases of this dangerous malignancy are diagnosed in people aged 75 or over.

The peak incidence of pancreatic cancer is seen in the age group of 65 to 75 years.

Obesity, smoking, pancreatitis and diabetes are other risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

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Symptoms

There may be no symptoms during the early stages of this painful cancer.

Symptoms during the later stages of the disease include pain in the abdomen, nausea, weight loss, yellow skin, fatigue, pain in the middle back, yellow eyes, loss of appetite and dark urine.

Treatment

It is important that you discuss your treatment goals with your healthcare team and know all of your options at every stage of the disease. The progression of the malignancy dictates treatment options.

One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Targeted drug therapy.

Generally if the cancer is localized, surgical treatment, by resection or removal of the tumor, can be pursued.

This means that the cancer has not spread to any blood vessels, distant lymph nodes or other organs, such as the liver or lung.

The majority of chemotherapies for pancreatic cancer are given as an out-patient, however this depends on the type of chemotherapy prescribed. It is sometimes possible to have chemotherapy at home.

Radiotherapy is not used as often as surgery or chemotherapy. You may have radiotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer that has not spread, but cannot be removed by surgery. In this case, you might have it with chemotherapy (called chemoradiation).

A study involving a targeted drug therapy using olaparib has demonstrated it may be possible to significantly slow pancreatic cancer's spread, with a third of patients receiving the medication still alive two years into a clinical trial. Olaparib was found to reduce the risk of disease progression by 47 percent.

A team at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research could enhance the tumours' response to chemotherapy by reducing the stiffness and density of the connective tissue known as the stroma, and reduce cancer spread by up to 50 per cent.

The state-of-the-art robotic Whipple procedure laparoscopically removes cancer. This procedure creates tiny incisions in the abdomen, about the size of a pencil head, to reach the pancreas.

It uses a 3D camera that magnifies the area nine times. Instead of recovery taking up to ten days in the hospital, patients experience less pain and many go home in four days.

“In laparoscopic method, the end is cut and joined using stapler technique. As a result, patient is operated in less time and less blood income is obtained during the operation,” IGIMS superintendent Dr Manish Mandal said.

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We have established first- and second-line agents for pancreatic cancer, but the third-line setting is pretty wide open. SM-88, being a drug that is well tolerated, may fit into the third-line space to hopefully improve survival.

— Marcus Smith Noel, MD

Prevention

Here are some ways to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Maintain your BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • Reduce exposure to cancer causing chemicals like benzene.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

Comments

Srikanth R (author) on April 23, 2019:

Sorry to hear that.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 23, 2019:

Sadly the cases of pancreatic cancer I have come across have proved fatal. Once diagnosed some have lived only a few weeks.

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