What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer occurs within the tissues of the pancreas, which is located behind the stomach and near the gallbladder. The pancreas has an essential role in digestion by producing enzymes which the body needs to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
The pancreas produces two important hormones: glucagon and insulin and these hormones control the glucose (sugar) metabolism. Insulin helps cells metabolize the glucose levels to make energy and raise glucose levels when they are too low.
How does Pancreatic Cancer develop?
Pancreas contains glands that create pancreatic juices, hormones, and insulin. Pancreatic Cancer can affect either the endocrine or the exocrine glands in the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer develops when abnormal cell growth begins within the pancreas and form tumors. Tumors develop and obstruct the way the pancreas works.
What are the Types of Pancreatic Cancer?
There are two types of pancreatic cancer:
- Pancreatic adenocarcinoma or pancreatic exocrine cancer – About 95 percent of pancreatic cancers are pancreatic adenocarcinomas. This type of pancreatic cancer develops in the exocrine cells of the pancreas or in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. The majority of cells in the pancreas are these exocrine cells which make pancreatic enzymes or the pancreatic ducts.
- Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) or islet cell tumors – This less common type of pancreatic cancer develops in the hormone-producing cells or the endocrine cells of the pancreas. These cells are responsible for making hormones, including the ones that help manage blood sugar.
What are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer does not show symptoms until it reaches the advanced stages of the disease. But when the symptoms are manifest, they include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- unintentional weight loss
- Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
- blood clots
- jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Light color stools
- Dark color urine
- Itchy skin
- diabetes which becomes more difficult to control
What are the Risk Factors of Pancreatic Cancer?
There are certain risk factors that may increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer. You may be at an increased risk:
- If you smoke cigarettes — 30 percent of cancer cases are related to cigarette smoking
- If you are obese
- If you don’t exercise regularly
- If you eat diets high in fat content
- If you drink heavy amounts of alcohol
- If you have diabetes
- If you work with pesticides and chemicals
- If you have chronic inflammation of the pancreas
- If you have liver damage
- If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer or certain genetic disorders that have been linked to this type of cancer
How is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed?
Pancreatic cancer may be difficult to detect because of its location, and is often diagnosed in more advanced stages of the disease.
Your doctor will review your symptoms to make a diagnosis. Your doctor could also perform one or more of the following tests to check for pancreatic cancer:
- CT or MRI scans to get a complete and detailed image of your pancreas.
- Endoscopic ultrasound, is when a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached is inserted down into the stomach to obtain images of the pancreas.
- Biopsy, or tissue sample, of the pancreas.
- Blood tests to check whether tumor marker CA 19-9 is present, which indicates pancreatic cancer.
What are the Stages of Pancreatic Cancer?
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will assign you a stage based on the test results:
- Stage 1: When tumors exist in the pancreas only.
- Stage 2: When tumors have spread to nearby abdominal tissues or lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: when the cancer has spread to major blood vessels and lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: When tumors have spread to other organs, such as the liver.
What are the Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is not curable, but it can improve the survival rate. The purpose for pancreatic cancer treatment is to kill the cancerous cells and to prevent the spread of the disease.
Most pancreatic cancer goes undetected until it reaches stage 4 (IV). Surgery is not suitable for people with advanced stage pancreatic cancer. If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, then removing the tumor or pancreas is not the solution. The most common surgeries for pancreatic cancer are:
- Distal pancreatectomy, where the middle and end part of the pancreas is removed, leaving the ‘head’ of the organ intact.
- Total pancreatectomy, where the entire pancreas is removed, along with portions of adjacent organs and structures like the stomach.
- Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy), possibly the most common surgery for pancreatic cancer, which removes the bulbous head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, the bile duct, part of the stomach and part of the small intestine.
Surgery alone is not the complete treatment plan for pancreatic cancer. Most people receive a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy after the surgery.
Radiotherapy uses high energy beams from X-rays and protons to destroy cancer cells that remain in the pancreas. Depending on the size and location of the pancreatic tumor, radiation therapy destroys the cancer cells and shrinks the overall size of the malignancy.
- External beam radiation: where a machine will target the affected area with radiation beams.
- Brachytherapy: The surgeon uses radioactive ‘seeds’ placed into or near the tumor inside the body.
- Both the approaches can reduce the number and size of cancer cells within the pancreas.
Chemotherapy is used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain in the pancreas.
- Chemotherapy can be used alone or can be combined with radiation therapy (chemoradiation).
- Chemoradiation is used to treat cancer that has not spread beyond the pancreas to other organs.
- Chemoradiation may be used before surgery to shrink cancers and make them easier to remove.
- Chemoradiation is also used after surgery to reduce the risk that pancreatic cancer may recur.
- In advanced pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy can be used to relieve pain and prolong survival.
Targeted drug treatments focus on specific abnormalities present within the cancer cells for pancreatic cancer. These drugs are designed not to harm healthy or normal cells.
- Targeted drug treatment blocks the growth of new blood vessels that help the cancer grow and survive and thus destroy the cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy drugs are reserved for people with advanced or recurrent pancreatic cancer.
- Targeted Therapies work only in those people whose cancer cells have certain genetic mutations.
*Weight loss, bowel obstruction, abdominal pain, and liver failure are some of the complications during pancreatic cancer treatment.
How can you Prepare yourself for the Pancreatic Cancer Treatment?
- The first and foremost thing that you need to do is keep yourself well informed about your cancer, this improves your quality of life as this can make the disease seem less mysterious and frightening. Information from your doctor and other credible sources can be very helpful in this respect.
- When a person is diagnosed with cancer it has an adverse effect on their emotional state, so you need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. This can be done by being transparent with your family and friends about how you feel, the problems you have been facing so that they can help you in a better way. And as a peer or a family member of the patient, you must support them at all times by listening to them patiently as they are emotionally down.
- You can avail services of a counsellor or attend group therapies consisting of people sharing their past experiences of cancer.
- Writing down about your queries, problems, new symptoms, any physical changes, medications, past medical reports and other important things will help you to clearly express yourself to the doctor.
How do we care about your Pancreatic Cancer Treatment?
About a decade Treatment Possible has been involved in guiding patients to undergo treatment in India, our main objective is to provide the best options for your treatment of pancreatic cancer in India at the lowest cost. Thus, we recognize the significance of excellent health and well-being of our guests by preferring association with Top oncologists and Best Hospitals for pancreatic cancer treatment in India.
We encourage you to educate yourself about the procedure, cost, treatment plan for pancreatic cancer, travel & stay, etc and then make a decision. For an early response from a case manager, Medical History and Diagnostic Reports can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Treatment Possible invites you for a Free Consultation with chosen Top pancreatic Cancer Surgeons in India with the assurance of hassle-free arrangements for examinations, procedures, recovery, travel and stay.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
How long does a person live with pancreatic cancer?
Up to 10 percent of patients who receive an early diagnosis become disease-free after treatment. For patients who are diagnosed before the tumor grows or spreads, the average pancreatic cancer survival period is 3 to 3.5 years.
How long has someone lived with pancreatic cancer?
Till date, no patient has survived longer than 10 years and the longest overall survival is 8 years.
How do you know if something is wrong with your pancreas?
- You will have constant pain in your upper belly that radiates to your back.
- You will have diarrhea and weight loss because your pancreas is not releasing enough enzymes to break down food.
- You will also have an upset stomach and vomiting.
What foods irritate the pancreas?
- Red meat.
- Organ meat.
- French fries, potato chips.
- Margarine, butter.
- Full-fat dairy.
- Sugary drinks.
Is yogurt good for pancreatitis?
Probiotic Yogurt eating 3 servings of low fat or fat free yogurt that contains active cultures (probiotics or beneficial bacteria) to help ease digestion, protects the pancreas and digestive system.