Know More About Pancreatic Cancer
The pancreas is a hockey-shaped small gland that helps in digestion by producing certain enzymes and also performs hormone regulation. It plays an important role in maintaining blood sugar levels in the body. The hormones insulin and glucagon are made by the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer occurs when the cells or tissues present in the pancreas undergo multiplication and form tumors. The ducts carrying digestive enzymes are generally the source of origination of cancer cells. The mass of cells formed can either be benign or malignant.
- Usually, pancreatic cancer develops when the cells related to it undergo changes in its DNA. the modifications in DNA lead to the multiplication of cells and show the growth uncontrollably.
- If a person is suffering from pancreatitis (chronic inflammation of the pancreas), smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity increase the risk of pancretic cancer.
- BRCA2 gene mutation, familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome, or Lynch syndrome can lead to the development of pancreatic cancer as well.
- Suffering from diabetes (especially type 2) at an older age can lead to the possibility of pancreatic cancer.
Types of cancer
Non-endocrine or exocrine pancreatic cancer
Exocrine pancreatic cancer occurs in the exocrine cells that are present in the eggs and glands. The exact line gland produces enzymes that help convert complex substances into simpler ones in the duodenum.
- AdenocarcinomaIt is the most commonly occurring carcinoma of the pancreas that occurs in the lining of its ducts. These cancer cells may also release enzymes and are then termed acinar cell carcinoma. The increased amount of pancreatic enzymes may lead to joint pain and skin rashes.
- Squamous cell carcinomaIt is a rare form of pancreatic cancer in which the squamous cells turn cancerous. The area of the pancreatic ducts made purely of squamous cells is affected.
- Adenosquamous carcinomaIt is an aggressive form of carcinoma and spreads quickly in the entire body. These tumors exhibit the features of both squamous and adenocarcinoma.
- Colloid CarcinomaColloid carcinoma generally accounts for 1 to 3 percent of the exocrine pancreatic cancer. Often, a benign cyst called intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm may lead to formation of cancerous cells. Since there is a presence of malignant cells in the fluid, it spreads much much quickly than other cancers.
Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer
The cells present in the endocrine gland of the pancreas release hormones like insulin and glucagon to regulate the blood sugar levels. These are also known as endocrine or islet cell tumors.
Benign Precancerous Lesions
Certain benign tumors or cysts hold the potential for developing into pancreatic cancer. The intraductal papillary-mucinous neoplasms can also form tumors in the body.
Stages of pancreatic cancer
The stage 0 is also termed carcinoma in situ. It is identified by the presence of abnormal cells in the lining of pancreas.
At this stage, the tumor is formed in the pancreas.
The tumor at this stage may have spread to surrounding tissues, lymph nodes, or organs.
The cancer at this stage spreads to the blood vessels surrounding the pancreas. The possibility to spreading near lymph nodes is also increased.
At this stage, the cancer turns severe and moves to distant organs like lungs, liver,etc.
Signs and Symptoms
Initially, the symptoms may not be visible in the early stage but as the disease progresses, the following issues may be observed:
- Pain in the upper abdominal area that might spread to back as well.
- Fatigue, loss of appetite, dark-colored pee, or light colored stools may also be observed.
- Weight loss, itchiness and yellowing of skin, and whites of eye are also experienced.
- There could be formation of clots in the body, feeling nauseous, vomiting, and new or worsening diabetes.
Generally, the physical examination is not possible in the case of pancreatic cancer as any kind of lumps, swelling, or tumors in pancreas cannot be felt by the physician.
A thin tube is inserted through mouth that reaches pancreas with a camera at the tip. It is responsible for producing images of the organs to understand their functioning.
Biopsy refers to the collection of a sample of cells or tissues to be analyzed in the laboratory. A fine thin needle is inserted into the body to collect the sample.
The doctor may also ask for some blood tests to determine the levels of certain hormones, chemicals, and molecules in the body. It can also help know about the tumor markers in the body. The high levels of CA antigen may indicate presence of tumor in the body.
Other techniques like positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and CT scans are performed to get pictures of the internal organs.
Side effects of the treatment
- Immunotherapy can lead to issues like nausea, itching, loss of appetite, rashes, constipation, cough, diarrhea, and joint pain. Also when the drugs are injected into the body, some patients might have an infusion reaction.
- Chemotherapy and radiotherapy make a person feel tired and sick most of the time. The risk of infections is increased, and bleeding and bruising can occur easily. The patient can also feel constipation and loss of appetite.
- Radiotherapy may induce some skin changes in the area that is under treatment. This may include some redness, peeling, and blistering. The common symptoms are vomiting and nausea.
- Targeted therapy can interfere with healing processes like wound healing and blood clotting. There could be dry skin, change in hair color, nail changes, and high blood pressure as well.
The doctors may perform a surgery to remove the cancer affected area of the pancreas or the entire organ. It is known as pancreatectomy. If the head of pancreas is affected then the doctor may perform Whipple procedure where head of pancreas, duodenum, gall bladder, lymph nodes, and some portion of bile duct is removed.
The radiation therapy involves the use of radiations like protons or X-rays that are directed towards the tumor to destroy it. Either a machine rotates around the body or a small device containing radioactive material is placed for some time to kill the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy uses some specific drugs that are made to flow through the body and destroy the tumor cells.
Immunotherapy involves strengthening the immune system of the body to ensure that the immune cells are able to fight the cancer cells and help prevent their growth in the body.
Targeted Cell Therapy
In the case of targeted cell therapy, specific proteins are aimed that help in development of cancer cells and their spread.
There are several medicinal homes in Ayurveda like ashwagandha that are known to have anti-cancerous properties and help in the prevention of the same. The use of natural herbs, medications, and certain plant extracts has been proven to be effective and beneficial for patients. It uses 100% natural products the approach of Ayurveda ensures the transfer of therapeutic values in the body. It can also be used as an adjacent approach with allopathic treatments to reduce the symptoms as well as the side effects.
Triphala is considered a good and effective herb for treating the stomach ailments. Working on strengthening the stomach activity, it can help prevent the formation of tumors and act on the root causes. Indian gooseberry is another herb that is considered beneficial for digestion. Diluted buttermilk is considered safe for intake and good for functioning of digestive system.
Ayurveda rejuvenates the pancreas and helps restore its functioning. It aims at cleansing, detoxifying, and strengthening the human immune system. It helps reclaim health by incorporating the treatments like massage therapy, cupping therapy, Abhingya, Basti, exercises, Yoga, home remedies, and good sleep patterns. The healing process takes place gradually and works on the root cause of the diseases.