Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Overview

Pancreatic cancer develops in the pancreatic tissues. The pancreas is a vital organ which helps in releasing enzymes which help in digestion and the hormones released by it helps in managing blood sugar levels in the body. The pancreas is placed horizontally behind the lower stomach in the abdominal region.

Pancreatic cancer has the tendency to spread rapidly to the adjacent organs. Pancreatic cancer is mostly detected in the later stages which are most difficult to manage. Its early detection is only in cases of family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatic cysts during some screening steps. It is mainly done for early diagnosis knowing a preexisting problem in the family, that allows opting preventive measures to further avoid any complication. A very common sign of pancreatic cancer is co-existence of diabetes along with weight loss, jaundice and excruciating abdominal pain which spreads towards the back.

Pancreatic cancer treatment might vary depending upon the patient’s condition. Some cases might require liver surgery, whereas some cases can be successfully treated with radiation or chemotherapy and in some extreme cases a combination of all of these options might be required.

What are the different types of pancreatic cancer?

There are different types of pancreatic cancer and its type mainly depends upon its source of origin. Sarcomas and lymphomas are rarely found to develop in the pancreas to develop cancer.

1. Exocrine tumors or cancer: This one is the most commonly found type of pancreatic cancer. Adenocarcinoma is one of the exocrine tumors which begins in the pancreatic ducts. These tumors are also known as ductal adenocarcinoma. If the tumor begins in the acini then it is known as acinar adenocarcinoma, but this is very rare.

Another common type in this category is of IPMN or intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm, which grows within the ducts and produces a thick fluid called mucin.  It is mostly diagnosed in later stages when complete worsening has already happened.

There are few rarely occurring types of exocrine pancreatic tumors like acinar cell carcinoma, colloid carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, hepatoid carcinoma, mucinous cystic neoplasms, giant cell tumor, serous cystadenoma, pancreatoblastoma, signet ring cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, solid and pseudopapillary tumors, and undifferentiated carcinoma.

2. Endocrine tumors or cancer: These type of tumors are also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors or PNETs or islet cell tumors. Such tumors are less common than exocrine tumors and account for nearly 1% of total pancreatic cancers. A pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor can either be a functional or a nonfunctional one. A functional tumor is the one which produces hormones. Whereas, a nonfunctional tumor is unable to produce hormones. A functioning or functional neuroendocrine tumor is mainly named after the type of hormone cells it produces. These include:

  • Insulinoma
  • Gastrinoma
  • Glucagonoma
  • VIPomas
  • PPomas
  • Somatostatinoma

3. Few rare types: There are other rare types of pancreatic cancer. It includes:

  • Pancreatoblastoma: These rarely occurring tumors of the pancreas and occur mainly in children. These are at times eve linked with some rare genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, etc.
  • Sarcomas of the pancreas: These are rare cancers of those connective tissues which mainly holds up pancreatic cells together.
  • Lymphoma: Lymphoma is cancer which develops in the lymphatic system. Since the lymphatic system is completed spread up in the entire body hence this cancer can develop in any part of the body.


Pancreatic cancer treatment: 

  • Surgery is an option for pancreatic cancer however it depends upon the extent to which cancer has spread. Whipple procedure of pancreaticoduodenectomy or distal pancreatectomy is two different types of surgery undertaken to remove the head of the pancreas or the tail/body of the pancreas at early stages.
  • Chemotherapy: is used for pancreatic cancer treatment. The drugs used either alone or in combination kills the tumor cells in the pancreas and the entire body. Most of the chemotherapy is administered IV i.e. through the vein. There are limited options available if is a stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In such a situation, palliative care is prescribed to relieve the pain and make the patient comfortable.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is used to activate the patient’s immune system to kill pancreatic cancer cells. These drugs are called checkpoint inhibitors.


Pancreatic cancer treatment cost:

The cost of treating pancreatic cancer depends upon the stage of cancer. A surgery shall cost a fixed amount of US$ 11000 and will cover almost all the hospital expenses for a stay period of 10-12 days. Radiation therapy used for metastatic cancer may cost US$ 4000 TO $8000.

In some cases, the prolonged hospitalization due to complications adds to the pancreatic cancer treatment cost. Thus treatment taken early has better results and outcomes as compared to a late start. Due to the reduced price of drugs in India, the cost of treatment has relatively come downwards.

Chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer treatment may cost US$ 3000 TO US$ 7000

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