What is pancreatic cancer (PC)?
It develops when damaged cells from the pancreas begins to grow uncontrollably. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most prevalent cause of cancer death in the United States.
There are various types of cancer, including:
- Adenocarcinoma of pancreas. The most common; takes place in the lining of the pancreatic duct.
- Adenosquamous carcinoma
- Carcinoma of squamous cells
What are the risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer?
- Age. the majority of cases occur to individuals above the age of 55.
- Smoking. Smokers have a 2-3 higher likelihood of non-smokers to develop PC.
- Obesity and sedentary life. PC is more common in people with obesity and who live a life with low levels of physical activity.
- Gender. Afflicts males more often than females.
- Race. African-Americans have a higher likelihood of developing PC than Asians, Hispanics, or whites.
- Family history. Individuals whose parents or siblings have PC.
- Work-place exposure to certain chemical products.
- Chronic pancreatitis.
What are the symptoms?
Each individual can experience symptoms differently, but the most common include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen or upper back.
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin, and dark pee)
- Pale and greasy feces
How is PC diagnosed?
Through a complete medical history and physical examination, as well as diagnostic test, which may include
*Ultrasound. A diagnostic imaging technique that makes use of high-frequency sound waves to generate an image of internal organs in the body. Ultrasounds are utilized to observe the liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys, and to evaluate the flow of blood through blood vessels.
Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
A specialized endoscopists introduces a flexible scope with an ultrasound probe through the mouth and into the digestive system for examination of internal organs.
This technique uses computerized x-ray images to generate horizontal or radial scans of the body. A CT scan reveals detailed images of any part of the body and are more accurate than conventional x-rays.
This produces detailed images of organs and internal structures by a combination of large magnets and radio frequencies.
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
It is a procedure that allows the specialized physician to diagnose and treat diseases of the liver, gallbladder, biliary ducts, and pancreas. The procedure combines the use of radiography (x-rays) and an endoscope. The physician can examine the interior of these organs and detect any abnormalities. A radio-opaque contrast is injected through the endoscope that allows visualization of hepatic, biliary, and pancreatic ducts by x-rays.
Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC)
A needle is introduced through the skin and into the live, where a contrast fluid is injected for x-ray visualization of the biliary ducts. This is generally performed when an ERCP is not possible.
Biopsy of pancreas
A small tissue sample of the pancreas is extracted with the use of a needle, either during open surgery or EUS for examination under a microscope.
What is the treatment for PC?
Surgery can be necessary to eliminate the tumor, along with a fragment or the entirety of the pancreas. The kind of surgery depends on the cancer’s stage, the location, and size of tumor, as well as the general wellbeing of the individual. The kinds of surgery for the treatment of PC include:
- Whipple procedure. This procedure implies the removal of the head of the pancreas, a portion of the small intestine, gallbladder, and part of the biliary duct, part of the stomach, and lymph nodes surrounding the pancreas. The majority of the pancreatic tumors originate in the head of the pancreas, making the Whipple procedure the most common kind of surgery for treatment of PC.
- Distal pancreatectomy. If the tumors is located on the body and tail of the pancreas. Both areas are removed, along with the spleen.
- Total pancreatectomy. The entire pancreas is remove, along with a fragments of the small intestine and stomach, the common biliary duct, spleen, gallbladder, and a number of lymph nodes. This kind of surgery is not common.
- Palliative surgery. For cancer in advanced stage; the aim of this surgery is to treat a complication, such as an obstructed biliary duct.