The cancer that grows inside the pancreas is known as pancreatic cancer. Pancreas is the gland that is about 6 inches long that makes hormones including the enzymes responsible for controlling blood sugar and also helps in digesting food. The development of pancreatic cancer starts when the cells inside the pancreas grow out of control. This cancer may metastasize or spread top surrounding organs and lymph nodes such as lungs and liver. There are three parts of the pancreas that include –
Approximately 90% of pancreatic cancer grows in the head of the pancreas.
Pancreatic cancer can be categorized into different types that depend on whether or not the cancer began in the endocrine or exocrine component. Pancreatic cancer types include –
Endocrine Tumors : Endocrine tumors also referred to as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) or islet cell tumors are not so common as compared to exocrine tumors. A pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor could be non-functioning that means it does not make any hormones or it could also be functioning that means it can make hormones. The base of a functioning neuroendocrine tumor is on the hormone that cells usually make –
Exocrine Tumors: They are considered as the most common type of pancreatic cancer. Adenocarcinoma that begins in gland cells is mostly seen in around 95% people who are suffering from pancreatic cancer. Ductal Adenocarcinoma is the ducts of the pancreas from where the tumor typically begins. Rarely when tumor starts in the acini then it is termed as acinar Adenocarcinoma.
Some of the other rare tumors of the pancreas are –
There are different types of surgeries that help in removing the pancreatic cancer. These surgeries are further categorized into-
Pancreaticoduodenectomy: This is considered as the most common surgery for removing a pancreatic tumor. This surgery is also termed as Whipple procedure that removes –
Total Pancreatectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the spleen and the complete pancreas.
Distal Pancreatectomy: This procedure involves the removal of a part of the body of the pancreas and tail of the pancreas. It also removes the spleen. This procedure is more commonly used with islet cell tumors.
Gastric Bypass: When the stomach has been blocked by the cancer then it is sewn with the small intestine. This process allows a patient to eat normally.
Stent Placement: In order to avoid blockage, the insertion of the metal tubes is done that helps in keeping the bile duct open.
Biliary Bypass: A small surgical cut is made in the bile duct or gallbladder that is then sewed to the small intestine. This surgical procedure is helpful when the tumor has blocked small intestine and has caused bile to accumulate in the gallbladder. Pain is also relieved by the means of this procedure.
Ablative techniques help in treating exocrine pancreatic cancer when some tumors have spread. These include –
Radiation Therapy : In this, a great amount of radiation is delivered for destroying cancer tumors more precisely. This radiation does not damage any surrounding healthy cells.
Chemoembolization or Embolization : Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is delivered to the blood vessels around the tumor by cutting off the blood supply to the pancreatic cancer.
Chemotherapy : Pancreatic cancer is most commonly treated with the help of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is used in many ways for treating pancreatic cancer that include –
There is no known cause of pancreatic cancer but this cancer is seen more common in –
It has also been noticed that pancreatic cancer is common in women as compared to men. Genetic syndromes passing down through families can also be considered as one of the cause.
Pancreatic cancer in its initial stage is painless and silent. Pancreatic cancer develops outside the pancreas when it becomes large and also resulting in some symptoms. The symptoms depends on the location of the cancer inside the pancreas –
Pancreatic Cancer Skin Symptoms
Pancreatic Cancer Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Pancreatic Cancer Whole Body Symptoms
Stage 1: This stage is considered as the early stage of pancreatic cancer. At this stage, the cancer is there within the pancreas that can be large. The cancer has not spread anywhere else in the body and also cancer is not there in the lymph nodes near to the pancreas.
Stage 2: In the second stage, the cancer has started in the bile duct, the duodenum, tissues near the pancreas or there could be cancer in the lymph nodes close to the pancreas.
Stage 3: This stage is known as locally-advanced cancer where the cancer has spread to large blood vessels close to the pancreas, stomach, large bowel or spleen.
Stage 4: This stage is known as advanced or metastatic cancer where the cancer has spread to different organs of the body such as lungs or liver.
The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer involves performing a number of imaging studies that include –
If a mass in detected in the pancreas then only a biopsy can help in diagnosing pancreatic cancer. There are different ways by which biopsies can be performed that include –