National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
Pancreatic cancer occurs when alterations in the pancreas cells lead them to multiply out of control. The pancreas is a small, hockey stick-shaped gland located behind the stomach. The main functions of the pancreas are to aid in food digestion and regulate blood sugar levels in the body. 1
Some types of growths may occur in the pancreas, including cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. The most common type of cancer that forms in the pancreas begins in the cells that line the ducts that carry digestive enzymes out of the pancreas. 2
There are main types of pancreatic cancer: 3
- Pancreatic Exocrine Cancers
- Other Exocrine Cancers
- Acinar cell carcinoma
- intraductal papillary-mucinous neoplasm (IPMN)
- Mucinous cystic neoplasm with an invasive adenocarcinoma
- Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancers (PNETs)
- Gastrinoma (gastrin)
- Glucaganoma (glucagon)
- Insulinoma (insulin)
- Somatostatinoma (somatostatin)
- VIPoma (vasoactive intestinal peptide)
- Nonfunctional Islet Cell Tumor (no hormones)
According to a 2021 study, India ranks 24th highest in reported cases of pancreas cancer, affecting 10860 new cases (1.03%), and 18thin mortality.4
Pancreatic cancer symptoms and signs: 2
Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer often do not occur until the disease is advanced. Sign and symptoms of pancreatic cancer are as follows:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back
- Loss of appetite/unintended weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Light-colored stools and dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Blood clots
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer:5
- Age: The risk of developing pancreatic cancer goes up as people age.
- Gender: Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women.
- Smoking/Tobacco: The risk of getting pancreatic cancer is twice as high among people who smoke compared to those who have never smoked.
- Being overweight: Gaining weight as an adult can also increase risk.
- Exposure to industrial chemicals or radiation raises the risk of pancreatic cancers.
- Diabetes: Pancreatic cancer is more common in people with diabetes.
- Chronic pancreatitis: It is long-term inflammation of the pancreas, and is linked with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
As pancreatic cancer progresses, it can cause complications such as:
Weight loss: Several factors may cause weight loss in people with pancreatic cancer. Weight loss might happen as cancer consumes the body’s energy. Nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatments or a tumor pressing on the stomach may make it difficult to eat.
Jaundice: Pancreatic cancer that blocks the liver’s bile duct can cause jaundice. Jaundice usually occurs without abdominal pain.
Pain: A growing tumor may press on nerves in the abdomen, causing pain that can become severe.
Bowel obstruction: Pancreatic cancer that grows into or presses on the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) can block the flow of digested food from the stomach into the intestines.
Cancer prevention is an action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. In general, one can lower their chances of pancreatic cancer with some key lifestyle choices:
Stop smoking: Smoking and chewing tobacco have been linked to blood cancer. Avoid tobacco exposure in all forms, including second-hand smoke.
Maintain a healthy weight: Obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight may assist to reduce the risk. Regular exercise will help a person maintain a healthy weight and may lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Combine daily exercise with a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains with smaller portions to help lose weight.
Choose a healthy diet: The risk of pancreatic cancer may also be increased by processed and red meats, as well as sugary beverages. In addition to eating enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the American Cancer Society advises limiting or avoiding red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed meals.
Treatment for Pancreatic cancer:
Cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer, age, how fast the cancer is progressing, where cancer has spread, and other factors. Some common pancreatic cancer treatments are as follows:
Surgery: It is for pancreatic cancer including removing all or part of the pancreas, depending on the location and size of the tumor in the pancreas.
- Surgery to remove the tumor- Whipple procedure
- Distal pancreatectomy
- Total pancreatectomy
Radiation therapy: It is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells.
- Traditional radiation therapy
- Stereotactic body radiation (SBRT) or cyberknife
- Proton beam therapy
Chemotherapy: It is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, usually by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells.
Targeted therapy: It is a treatment that targets cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival.
Immunotherapy: It is also called biological therapy, and is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer.
November is a month of empowerment, education, and inspiration for communities far and wide who have been touched by pancreatic cancer awareness month. It is an opportunity to bring this illness to light and elevates it to raise awareness. It is a time to spread awareness of the pancreatic disease by sharing stories, raising research, and letting patients know the facts, symptoms, and risk factors of pancreatic cancer. It can help with early detection, motivate healthy life choices and provide guidance on when to seek genetic counseling. This month may share a variety of ways that can get involved.
- Pancreatic Cancer. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15806-pancreatic-cancer. Assessed on 17th October 2022.
- Pancreatic cancer. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20355421. Assessed on 17th October 2022.
- Types of pancreatic cancer. Available at: https://pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/about-pancreatic-cancer/types-of-pancreatic-cancer/. Assessed on 17th October 2022.
- An epidemiological review of pancreatic cancer with special reference to India. Available at: https://ijmsweb.com/an-epidemiological-review-of-pancreatic-cancer-with-special-reference-to-india/. Assessed on 17th October 2022.
- Pancreatic cancer risk factors. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Assessed on 17th October 2022.
- November is pancreatic cancer. Available at: https://pancreatic.org/november/. Assessed on 17th October 2022.