Pancreatic cancer is a malignant neoplasm which originates from transformed cells arising in tissues forming the pancreas. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, accounting for 95% of these tumors, is adenocarcinoma (tumors exhibiting glandular architecture on light microscopy) arising within the exocrine component of the pancreas. A minority arises from islet cells and are classified as neuroendocrine tumors.
The signs and symptoms that eventually lead to the diagnosis depend on the location, the size, and the tissue type of the tumor, and may include abdominal pain, lower back pain, and jaundice. Pancreatic cancer is often referred to as a silent disease. The symptoms of this condition usually are nonspecific, so most patients, unfortunately, get diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Early stage pancreatic cancer often does not cause symptoms, and the later symptoms are usually nonspecific and varied. Therefore, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until it is advanced. Common symptoms include:
Development of diabetes without a previous family history
Palpable abdominal mass
Although pancreatic cancer is not yet fully understood, several risk factors and causes that have been identified may increase the chance of developing it:
Smoking (doubles the risk)
Oldage (approximately 80% of cases develop between the ages of 60 and 80)
Excess body weight
Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
A family history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk
It is important to note that pancreatic cancer is not just one disease. There are many types of pancreatic tumors, each with its own unique prognosis and treatment recommendations. In the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, the doctors may check the medical history of the patient and also conduct a physical examination followed by a series of tests which may be necessary to make a definite diagnosis.
The specialist may further recommend an Ultra Sound, CT Scan, Endoscopic Ultra Sound, Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) and Biopsy to determine the condition.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the stage and location of cancer. Patients with pancreatic cancer whose tumor cannot be completely removed with surgery, have to be treated with radiation therapy.
CyberKnife radiotherapy plays a pivotal role in such treatments, It helps in treating the tumor without causing any damage to the healthy tissues, including bowels, kidneys, and liver. Management of pain and other symptoms is an important part of the treating pancreatic cancer.