When the cells grow uncontrollably in the pancreas, it results to pancreatic cancer. These cells continuously divide and produce lumps or tumors instead of growing into healthy tissues. When this happens, the pancreas is not able to do its two main functions, which are:
- Endocrine Function – It discharges juices into the bloodstream.
- Exocrine Function – It releases fluids into the ducts.
What causes this type of cancer?
The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is yet to be discovered. However, there are known risk factors that can influence a person’s likelihood to have this illness.
What are these risk factors?
- Cigarette Smoking – People who smoke are two to three times more likely to get this disease than those who are not. The reason for this may be because of the chemicals present in cigarettes. They enter the blood and harm the pancreas. Even individuals who use smokeless tobacco are not spared of the risk.
- Work-Related Exposure – Workers who are exposed to some dyes and pesticides, as well as to chemicals being utilized in metal refining, are at higher risk.
- Age – As we age, the possibility of having pancreatic cancer becomes higher. The average age of diagnosis is 71.
- Obesity – Obese individuals are more prone to exocrine pancreatic cancer. The same goes for people who are not physically active.
- Gender – It is less likely for women to develop pancreatic cancer. Men are more susceptible to the disease, which is probably due to increased use of tobacco. However, the gap between the risk men and women of has decreased in recent years.
What are the treatments available to them?
Treatment procedures are made according to the stage of the cancer and its location. It also depends on the overall condition of the health of the patients and their personal preferences. The first treatment focuses on the removal of the tumor, but when it is no longer an option, treatment will focus on inhibiting cancer spread. However, there are instances when the cancer has already progressed and treatments aren’t likely to help. In such cases, medical professionals will work on relieving the symptoms and on making patients to live as comfortable as possible.
Surgery – This may be likely if the disease is restricted to the pancreas only. Various operations include surgery for cancer in the pancreatic head, tail and body.
Radiation Therapy – This is a procedure that works to eliminate cancer cells. It makes use of high-energy beams, such as protons and X-rays. This can happen prior to or after the surgery and frequently done along with chemotherapy. Both therapies may be recommended when the disease can’t be treated with surgery.
Chemotherapy – This makes use of drugs that can be taken orally or injected right into the vein to eliminate cancer cells. The doctor may recommend a single or a combination of drugs.
When the cancer cells have already spread to nearby organs, chemoradiation (a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy) is the typical procedure. But this can also be made after surgery to lessen the possibility of recurrence.
Targeted Therapy – As the term suggests, this makes use of targeted drugs to address the abnormalities of the cancer cells.
Alternative Cancer Treatments – Cancer patients, especially those who suffer from pancreatic cancer, experience distress, which makes it difficult for them to cope. Alternative cancer centers help management of pain and symptoms during cancer treatment, which enable the patient to live a good quality of life despite the disease.