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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.
Diets high in meats, cholesterol, fried foods and nitrosamines may increase pancreatic cancer risk.
Most gene mutations related to this aggressive 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.
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.
Techniques used to diagnose this fatal cancer include ultrasound, CT scans, MRI and, sometimes, PET scans.
In April 2022, Fujitsu and the Southern Tohoku General Hospital announced the launch of a joint research project with Fujitsu Japan Limited and FCOM CORPORATION on an artificial intelligence technology for the early detection of pancreatic cancer from CT scans without contrast agent.
It is important that you discuss your treatment goals with your healthcare team and know all of your options at every stage of this treatment-refractory cancer.
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.
- 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.
Sotorasib has demonstrated “meaningful anticancer activity” in pretreated patients with KRASG12C-mutated, advanced pancreatic cancer, according to an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Plenary Series presentation.
A research study, which was published in the journal, ‘Med’ in March 2022, suggested that a ketogenic diet, which is low in carbohydrates and protein and high in fat, helps to kill pancreatic cancer cells when combined with a triple-drug therapy.
NaBT (sodium butyrate) may represent a novel strategy to inhibit pancreatic cancer invasion and improve the prognosis of this deadly disease.
In July 2022, a research study published in Nature found that turning off the specific gene GREM1 results in a greater spread of pancreatic cancer. But turning the gene back on may lead to a reduced spread of pancreatic cancer. The discovery could lead to the development of pancreatic cancer treatments.
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
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.
Celebrities With Pancreatic Cancer
Steve Jobs, Luciano Pavarotti, Alan Rickman, Sally Ride and Patrick Swayze are some famous people who died of pancreatic cancer.
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
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.