Karen R Lindner
Wright Career College
Pancreatic cancer occurs in approximately 29000 patients every year. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer related deaths. Worldwide, pancreatic cancer is the eighth most common cause of death from cancer in both sexes combined. There have been advancements in the perioperative management, but the 5yr survival rate remains unchanged. Surgical resection is still the only potentially curative treatment for the disease.
What is Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancers can arise from both exocrine and endocrine parts of the pancreas. But cancers formed by the exocrine cells are more common. It is important to know if a tumor is from the exocrine or endocrine part of the pancreas. The tumors have their own signs and symptoms and are found by using different tests , are treated in different ways and have different outlooks.
Exocrine tumors are most common and start in the gland cells. Endocrine tumors are less common and are known as islet cell tumors. Here are some: gastrinomas, insulinomas, glucagonomas, somatostatinomas, vipomas,ppomas. Most of these tumors are not cancer. The outlook for these is better than that of exocrine cancers. Approximately 75% of all pancreatic cancers occur within the head of neck of the pancreas, 15-20% occur in the body of the pancreas, and 5-10% occur in the tail. Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Early pancreatic cancers often do not cause any signs or symptoms. Some signs:
Jaundice and related symptoms: The yellowing of the eyes and skin, which is caused by the buildup of bilirubin made by the liver.
Belly or back pain: Pain in the abdomen or in the back is a common sign of advanced pancreatic cancer.
Weight loss: Losing weight without any effort over a number of months is very common.
Digestive problems: If the cancer blocks the release of pancreatic juice into the intestine, a person may have trouble digesting fatty foods, causing nausea, vomiting and worsening pain.
Swollen gallbladder: In an exam the doctor may find the gallbladder enlarged.
Blood clots: Blood clots can form in veins of the legs, causing pain and swelling. They can travel to the lungs and cause chest pain and breathing problems.
Tests to find Pancreatic Cancer If someone experiences one or more of the these signs or symptoms there are certain tests and exams that can be done by a physician.
History and physical exam when the doctor asks about your symptoms and overall health and family history, and they will focus mostly on the abdomen. Looking for swelling, and also skin color and white part of the eyes.
There are several different imaging tests, where makes pictures of the inside of the body.
Ct Scan – Computed Tomogrophy
MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
There are also certain blood tests to help find pancreatic cancer. There are also different types of biopsies, percutaneous biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, surgical biopsy. But rarely does the doctor need to do a biopsy if the imaging shows the tumor is very likely cancer.
Treatments of Pancreatic Cancer
The main types of treatment for pancreatic cancer are, surgery, ablative techniques, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other drugs. Some treatments can be combined, pain control is also a important part of treatment.
Mortality Rate for Pancreatic Cancer
The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many of these people live much longer than