The pancreas is a pear-shaped gland located between the stomach and the spine. It produces enzymes that aid digestion and produces hormones that aid in blood sugar regulation. Pancreatic cancer develops when changes (mutations) in pancreas cells cause them to multiply abnormally. It accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the US. It seems to occur slightly more often amongst men than women.
There are several pancreatic cancer types, mainly depending on whether the cancer began in the exocrine or endocrine component.
The most common type is exocrine cancer. If one has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it's most likely exocrine pancreatic cancer. The other pancreatic cancer types include:
Adenocarcinomas account for approximately 95% of exocrine pancreas cancers. These cancers typically begin in the pancreatic ducts. They form less frequently in the cells that produce pancreatic enzymes, in which case they are known as acinar cell carcinomas.
Adenosquamous carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, signet ring cell carcinomas, undifferentiated carcinomas, and undifferentiated carcinomas with giant cells are some of the less common exocrine cancers.
These are also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) or islet cell tumors. They are far less common than exocrine tumors, accounting for only about 7% of pancreatic cancers. A pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor can be functioning or non-functioning. A functioning tumor produces hormones, and a non-functioning tumor produces no hormones.
A functioning neuroendocrine tumor is named based on the hormone that the cells produce. These include: Insulinoma, Glucagonoma, Gastrinoma, Somatostatinoma, VIPomas, and PPoma.
Doctors frequently refer to pancreatic cancer as a "silent disease" because there are only a few visible pancreatic cancer early symptoms.
As cancer grows, symptoms may include:
The pancreatic cancer treatment options depend on the type and stage of cancer, potential side effects, the patient's preferences, and overall health. It is advisable to take the time to learn about the treatment options and ask the doctor questions to clarify doubts, if any.
Depending on the location and size of the tumor in the pancreas, surgery for pancreatic cancer may involve removing all or part of the pancreas. An area of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor may be removed as well. This is known as a margin. The goal of the surgery is to have "clear margins" or "negative margins," meaning there are no cancer cells on the edges of the healthy tissue removed.
The use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells is known as radiation therapy. External-beam radiation therapy is the most commonly used type of radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer.
Medication can be delivered through the bloodstream to cancer cells all over the body. The most common type of systemic therapy for pancreatic cancer is chemotherapy. However, targeted therapy and immunotherapy are used occasionally and are being researched as potential treatments in individuals with specific molecular or genetic features.
There are many tests used for diagnosing pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis, however, should be confirmed with a sample of tissue from the tumor taken during a biopsy, fine needle aspiration, or surgery.
Pancreatic cancer specialists at ACTC are dedicated to providing excellent patient care by prescribing effective, personalized treatment plans. On our team are some of Florida's most experienced providers. Our professionals strive to provide a positive environment for patients and their families throughout their cancer journey.
The following are our providers who you can consult at ACTC:
ACTC is committed to providing patients with personalized and comprehensive care. A clinical team with over two decades of experience continues to support our caregivers and staff. Our facility features an infusion room, medical and radiation oncology exam rooms, a treatment vault, and cutting-edge diagnostic technology for pancreatic cancer treatment.
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Early warning signs of pancreatic cancer include abdominal pain that radiates to the back, loss of appetite, dark-colored urine, itchy skin, and digestive problems such as abnormal stools, nausea, or vomiting.
One of the main pancreatic cancer causes is smoking. People who smoke have roughly twice the risk of developing pancreatic cancer as those who have never smoked.
With age, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases. The majority of people who develop pancreatic cancer are over the age of 45. Other risk factors include tobacco use, being overweight, and people having type 2 diabetes.