Pancreatic cancer is a threat to public health, causing about one-fourth of a million deaths annually world over. In fact, it is the 13th most common cancer in the world and 11th in India. The condition develops due to an uncharacteristic growth in cell count in the pancreas, a glandular organ that aids metabolism and controls sugar levels. The unwarranted cells form malignant tumours invade other body parts via the bloodstream, leading to organ failures and death. The condition is classified on basis of the site of a tumour, which can be either exocrine or endocrine. Exocrine tumours originate within the pancreatic region where digestive substances are generated while exocrine tumours are formed in the area responsible for hormone production.
Of all pancreatic cancers, exocrine cancers are the most prevalent, accounting for 95% cases globally. Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma is the commonest form of exocrine cancers followed by Adenosquamous carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and Giant cell carcinoma. On the other hand, endocrine pancreatic cancers, also called islet cell tumours, are rare and bear the name of the hormone generating site where they originate. If the tumour site is an insulin-producing region of the pancreas, the cancer is known as Insulinomas; whereas, Glucagonomas, Gastrinomas and VIPomas originate in regions producing Glucagon, Gastrin and Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide respectively. Additionally, there is a certain category of tumours known as Non-secreting Islet Tumours that does not emit any hormone whatsoever.
Pancreatic cancer does not reveal any aggressive symptoms until it reaches criticality. The symptoms are vague and often coincide with general disorders. However, getting screened for pancreatic cancer becomes imperative if the following symptoms crop up unannounced and persist over a period. Remember, early presentations can save a life.
Medical science may be close to finding the exact cause for pancreatic cancer but the final pieces of the puzzle are yet to be found. However, it has identified several factors that collectively or individually expose a person to the condition. Take a look at some of the risk factors below.
Like every other malignancy, pancreatic cancers advance in five well-defined stages.
The treatment options for pancreatic malignancy depend on the stage or severity. To determine the course of treatment, our oncologist is likely to factor in the patient’s overall health status and the result of various diagnostic modalities, such as tumour marker test, PET scan, CT scan, MRI, Ultrasound, Biopsy, Blood chemistry studies and more. If presented early, the patient may have a malignant tumour removed through surgical intervention for complete recovery. Let’s consider some of the popular response approaches.