Pancreatic Cancer Types and Treatment

Pancreatic Cancer Types and Treatment:

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Cancer, a word that could eat away at the mental fortitude of even the most powerful or wealthiest person, the second leading cause of death claims the lives of an estimated 10 million all over the World every year.

Types of Pancreatic Cancer:

  • Exocrine Cancers
  • Neuro-Endocrine cancers

Exocrine Cancers:

An estimated 95% of cases are classified to be exocrine tumors that occur in the exocrine cells tasked to produce the pancreatic enzymes that help digestion. Different cases of exocrine cancer are:

  • The pancreatic adenocarcinoma, a type of exocrine cancer, is the most common, with statistics indicating to 85% of all pancreatic cancer cases. Abbreviated as PDAC for Pancreatic Ductal adenocarcinoma, the pancreatic carcinoma starts at the ducts of the pancreas.
  • The next most common type, acinar cell carcinoma of the pancreas, arises in the clusters of cells that produce these enzymes, and represents 5% of exocrine pancreas cancers. This type of cancer can cause an excess production of these enzymes which may cause symptoms such as skin rashes and joint pain.

Treatments for Exocrine Cancer:

As it is now, Exocrine Cancers are treated with only surgery being a possible option. A key assessment that is made after diagnosis is whether the tumor can be surgically removed. The extent of its spread or growth and the exact location of the tumor are primarily considered for if surgical resection can be offered. And statistically, only 20% of new cases are possibly treated with curative surgery.

After surgery, post-operative or adjuvant chemotherapy can be offered if the person deemed sufficiently fit after a recovery period of one to two months. In people not suitable for curative surgery, chemotherapy may be used to extend or improve the quality of life. Pre-operative chemotherapy may be administered to cases considered borderline resectable so as to reduce the cancer to a level where surgery could be “promising”.

Neuro-Endocrine Cancers:

PanNETs or Pancreatic Neuro-Endocrine tumors are seemingly rare with cancer lesions occurring in the hormone producing cells or islets in the pancreas. PanNETs may be benign or malignant cancer, have a better prognosis and are less common than pancreatic exocrine tumors. Some possible symptoms of having a PanNET are Diarrhea, indigestion, a lump in the abdomen, pain in the abdomen or back and yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

Treatment for PanNETs:

Pancreatic NETs are often cured and treatment options depend on the following factors,

  • The type of cancer cell.
  • Location of the tumor in the pancreas.
  • Area of spread of the tumor,
  • Whether the patient has MEN1 syndrome.
  • The patient’s age and general health.

Standard treatment for PanNETs includes surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, hepatic arterial occlusion or chemoembolization, targeted therapy and supportive care. Pancreatic NETs are mostly likely to not have spread to distant parts, making them more likely to be resectable than exocrine cancers.

Surgery will be done for resectable cancers depending on the size, type and location on the tumor in the pancreas, along with close monitoring to look for signs of recurring cancer.

Unresectable tumors on the other hand cannot be removed with surgery. Since PanNETs are often slow growing, chemotherapy is used to delay it until the person starts to have symptoms that cannot be controlled with drugs, whence surgery may be used to control the cancers spread to the liver.

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