About Pancreas :
The pancreas is about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide and is positioned behind the stomach. The pancreas is composed of two different glands namely exocrine and endocrine glands.
- Exocrine glands : The function of exocrine glands is to produce pancreatic juice which is released into the intestines. These enzymes help in the digestion
- Endocrine glands : A small cluster of cells called islets are the endocrine cells. They produce insulin and glucagon which is released in the blood. The insulin keeps the sugars in control while the glucagon increases it.
What is pancreas cancer ?
There are two types of cancers. They are-
- Cancers of the endocrine pancreas : It causes islet cancers.
- Cancers of the exocrine pancreas : This cancer grows slowly as compared to exocrine glands.
Types of pancreatic cancers :
Most of the pancreatic cancers are caused in the head of the pancreas.
Exocrine cancers :
The ducts that hold the digestive juices carry them into the pancreatic duct and duodenum. The exocrine cancers usually happen in the pancreatic ducts. These cancers start in the wall of the pancreas.
Endocrine pancreatic cancers :
These endocrine cancers are also called as neuroendocrine tumours. They are different from the exocrine tumours and hence the treatments too differ.
Rare types of cancer of the pancreas :
Rare types of pancreatic cancers include sarcomas, pancreablastomas and lymphomas.
Pancreatic Cancers doesn’t show any symptoms in the early stages which makes it difficult to detect or diagnose. You should also remember that the symptoms you notice need not always be for cancer. Such an assumption will only lead you to anxiety and unwanted stress. Discuss your symptoms with your general physician. He will observe and then refer you to a specialist in case the symptoms persist and are of cancerous in nature.
Most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer :
Most of the cancers occur in exocrine glands. The symptoms are too vague and they can occur in head, body or tail of the pancreas.
Abdominal pain :
Abdominal pain is a symptom for pancreatic cancer. This pain might come and go and may not be constant also. But the pain may become constant after a period of time. The pain is caused by the nerves or the organs surrounding the pancreas.
Most of the pancreatic cancers will have jaundice as a symptom. The skin and the eyes turn yellow. This is because the tumor blocks the bile duct and allows the bile and bilirubin to build in the pancreas which is phenomenon of obstructive jaundice.
Weight loss :
Weight loss is a common symptom. The digestive system suffers because of the lack of digestive enzymes the pancreas has to produce. Thus the nutrients too are not produced adequately leading to weight loss.
Other common symptoms of pancreatic cancer :
Bowel problem :
- Fever accompanied by shivering
- Severe Back pain
- Loss of appetite
Causes and risk factors :
Some of the risk factors include :
- Cigarette smoking : Smoking risks pancreatic cancer
- Age : People above 60 years of age are susceptible to cancer. Most of the cancers show up at an age between 60 - 80.
- Race : The disease is most common in African American Population than in the whites.
- Gender : Men are more prone to pancreatic cancer.
- Chronic pancreatitis: Inflammation in the pancreas for a long term is linked to pancreatic cancer.
- Diabetes mellitus : Long standing adult diabetes is also a risk for pancreatic cancer.
- Obesity : obesity too will lead to pancreatic cancer.
- Diet : Foods rich in meat, cholesterol and fried foods may also be a symptom.
- Genetics : The disease also has genetic lenience.
Tests and diagnosis :
Tests and diagnosis will determine the type of pancreatic cancer and the kind of treatment that has to be used on the patient. An examination of the abdomen for any masses or fluid build up will also help in deciding what tests have to be conducted on the patient to be more accurate of the disease.
Imaging tests are conducted before or after the diagnosis of the pancreatic cancer. It uses x- rays, sound waves or radioactive substances to take images of the inside of the pancreas.
Computed tomography (CT) scan :
A CT scan shows the images of the pancreas vividly. It uses x-rays to take cross sectional images of the body.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) :
Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses radio waves and strong magnets to detect the extent of the disease. The body absorbs the energy in the radiation and then is released enabling to take imaged clearly. The doctor still prefers a CT scan over MRI to look at the changes in the pancreas.
An ultrasound uses sound waves to take images of the insides of the organs.
Somatostatin Receptor Scintigraphy (SRS): It’s also called as octreoscan. It’s very helpful in diagnosing pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours.
Preparing for your appointment:
The appointments are usually brief hence a prior preparation will help you in getting your doubts clarified. Here are few things that you can do –
- Make a note of the medications you are taking
- Make a note of the doubts or the symptoms you have been suffering from.
- Make sure of any pre-appointment restrictions.
- Making note of these will help you talk to your doctor with ease and also answer his questions. This will help the doctor in putting you for a series of tests based on the symptoms you are facing.
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy are the treatment methods used to treat pancreatic cancers currently. It depends on several factors such as the stage, type, patient’s preferences and overall health.
A surgical oncologist is one who specializes in treating cancer through surgery. A portion of the pancreas or complete pancreas is removed during the surgery to remove the tumor from spreading. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy is also used along with the surgery.
The types of surgery used to treat pancreatic cancer are :
In this procedure small holes are made in the abdomen to push tiny camera inside. This is done with the help of anaesthesia so that he doesn’t feel the pain. A specialist might use this procedure initially to treat the patient.
Surgery to remove the tumour :
The procedures used to treat pancreatic cancer differ based on the type of cancer. A whipple procedure is used when the cancer is in head region of the pancreas. This is otherwise called as extensive surgery and sometimes a part of the intestine is also removed. A distal pancreatectomy is done when the cancer is in the tail of the pancreas. The tail, the spleen and body of the pancreas is removed to stop the tumor from spreading.
There are chances that the cancer might reappear in the same area. At such times radiation therapy is used to prevent it from recurring again.
After the pancreas is removed through surgical procedure adjuvant chemotherapy is used to prevent it from recurring again.
There are several support groups from whom you get assistance, motivation, moral and emotional strength that’s very necessary when you are suffering from the pancreatic cancer. These support groups are available everywhere and provide personal attention to each patient. They can also talk to them at any point of time about every issue they are facing which may also include the anxious, emotional or distraught feelings. They will guide you to come out of it or recommend you to talk to people who have suffered from the disease and have come out of it successfully.
There is no particular method to prevent the disease from emerging. Here are few things that you may want to do-
Stop smoking : Smoking becomes an addiction when it becomes a habit. When you want to quit smoking and you are not then there are rehabilitation centres or support groups and other medical therapies to help him from quitting smoking.
Maintain a healthy weight: Work out regularly and maintain a healthy weight. If you are obese start losing weight gradually. Consume low fat and foods rich in fibre and whole grains.
Choose a healthy diet :
What you eat is very essential as in the long run it supports your body from getting weak. A combination of fruits and vegetables will help you fight against diseases. Your immune system will be strong.
Why choose KIMS ?
KIMS Hospital, Hyderabad is one of the best pancreas cancer hospitals in Hyderabad. KIMS Hospital has the best surgical oncologists in Hyderabad for the treatment of pancreatic cancers which are rare and critical. KIMS Hospital is one of the best cancer treatment centers in Hyderabad.