Pancreatic cancer treatment
Pancreatic cancer is a life-threatening malignant disease of the pancreas. The absence of typical symptoms in the initial stages and the rapid spread of the malignant process make it much more challenging to identify. However, numerous treatment options are available, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiosurgery, radio- and chemoembolization, proton, and ablation therapy.
We understand you are here to learn more about the disease and choose the best treatment center or hospital for pancreatic cancer. At the same time, we must inform about this kind of cancer before deciding.
The pancreas performs numerous tasks. At the same time, it is the only gland in the body that can do both exocrine and endocrine work.
In addition, the pancreas makes:
- pancreatic juices, which help break down food,
- hormones that help regulate the level of sugar in the blood.
Pancreatic cancer also called pancreatic carcinoma, is a tumor that starts in the exocrine cells of the pancreas and gets worse over time. It could happen in any part of the organ, in theory. But most of the time, it affects the head of the pancreas.
The pancreatic adenocarcinoma tumor usually grows in the part of the pancreas that makes pancreatic juices. When it affects endocrine cells, which is rare, it is called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.
About only 3% of all cancers are pancreatic. However, it is one of the most dangerous, and even the latest treatment options for pancreatic cancer still have a low success rate. Men are more likely to get pancreatic cancer, which ranks ninth in the structure of all cancer cases.
Pancreatic cancer is found less often than other cancers of the digestive system, but it is more dangerous. Therefore, if you have any symptoms that worry you, you should get checked out immediately. That’s the only way to avoid the too-late diagnosis and treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer.
The cause of cancerous growths in the pancreas
Pancreatic cancer happens when a cell's DNA changes in a way that isn't normal. This damage makes the tumor mass grow too fast and out of control, giving it life.
Scientists have found the following to be risk factors for pancreatic cancer:
- At least 25% of cases of pancreatic cancer are caused by smoking. Researchers claim that smoking makes the risk of getting bullous ulcers twice as high.
- Alcohol use and not getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet are also significant risk factors (20% of cases).
- Many oil, saturated fatty acids, processed foods, and red meat are eaten.
- People with diabetes are twice as likely to be at risk.
- Genes cause 5-10% of all cases. The disease is often linked to genetic conditions like adenomatous polyposis, non-polyposis colorectal cancer, Hippel-Lindau, and Gardner syndromes.
- In 5% of cases, pancreatic cancer is caused by long-term pancreatitis.
If you have one or more risk factors listed above, it is critically important to pay attention to health. In the other case, there is a high probability of looking for pancreatic cancer's latest treatments.
First signs of pancreatic cancer
At an early stage, the symptoms of a pancreatic tumor are like those of other diseases. Diabetes often looks like something else, which makes it hard for doctors to diagnose. Sometimes, a person is thought to have an ulcer in their stomach or gall bladder disease.
Pain and yellowing of the skin and eyes are the main signs of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. In 90% of patients, they are seen.
In its early stages, pancreatic cancer doesn't show any signs. That’s why the treatment for stage 1 pancreatic cancer is not so often used.
At a later stage, when cancer has spread to other organs, the first signs are:
- jaundice makes the skin and whites of the eyes look yellow;
- dark urine, pain in the upper abdomen;
- pain in the middle of the back;
- feeling sick and throwing up;
- having floaty, white stools.
Also, at advanced stages that require pancreatic cancer new or alternative treatment options, the disease causes other, much less specific symptoms, such as:
- weakness or tiredness;
- loss of appetite or feeling full quickly;
- weight loss.
Depending on where the tumor is in the gland, pancreatic cancer can cause more specific signs and symptoms.
Pancreatic cancer tests and how far along it is
Only 20% of pancreatic carcinomas are found when the tumor is in the pancreas. So, spiral computed tomography with double contrast is one of the preliminary tests. Also, the doctor orders more tests to rule out the possibility that the patient has another disease.
Blood tests include routine analyses of the patient's overall health and how well their kidneys, liver, heart, and lungs work. Proteins called tumor markers are being made more and more by cancerous cells in the pancreas. For instance, more tumor markers are found in the blood in the case of pancreatic carcinoma.
An ultrasound exam (abdominal sonography) helps the doctor to find where the tumor is in the pancreas. If necessary, the oncologist may prescribe an endoscopic ultrasound exam (endosonography) in addition to the standard ways of checking. In this way, the doctor can find even the most minor tumors.
With computed tomography, oncologists can determine how far the tumor and metastases have spread. Positron emission tomography, or PET-CT, is a new way to see tumors and the spread of cancer. The radioactively marked substance is taken up by the part that is hurt, and the doctor can see this on the screen.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is essential for diagnosing this type of cancer. It uses contrast X-rays to visualize the biliary and pancreatic ducts. So the doctor can see both organs' inner walls on one screen. If he finds any changes, he can take tissue samples with small forceps that are also part of the endoscope (biopsy). Lastly, the specialist looks at it through a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells.
There are four stages of pancreatic cancer:
Stage I: Cancer has only spread to the pancreas.
Stage II: The tumor has spread to nearby tissues but hasn't reached the blood vessels. Cancer might have also applied to the lymph nodes.
Stage III: The growth has reached veins and arteries.
Stage IV: The cancerous process has spread to other body parts, like the liver or lungs. At stage 4, pancreatic cancer life expectancy without treatment is less than at earlier ones, so do not skip the first signs.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer
Imaging studies tell us the difference between pancreatic cancer that can be removed totally, partially, or can't be removed at all because it has spread too far. Then, a decision is made about how to treat the patient based on the resectability assessment and the patient's overall health.
Chemotherapy is the drug therapy used to kill cancer cells in pancreatic cancer. Often it is used with surgery and radiation therapy to help them work better. In clinical trials, new chemotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer tests to help patients live longer.
Immunotherapy is based on getting the body's immune system (antibodies) to fight the abnormal cells that form when someone has pancreatic cancer. Target therapy works only on cancerous tissue and leaves healthy tissue alone for the most part. Targeted therapies use drugs aimed at specific things, like factors that help the tumor grow or get more blood.
Most of the time, surgery is the only way to get rid of the tumor for good. About 15-20% of the time, is it possible to move forward. The surgery depends on where the tumor is in the pancreas. Most people with pancreatic cancer have Whipple surgery, in which the head of the pancreas is removed. The automated da Vinci system provides the most advanced way of using the surgical procedure on tumors that can be removed, and it is used for the treatment of stage 1 or 2 pancreatic cancer.
The method makes it possible to do the procedure with less pain and blood loss. Also, when the patient is getting better, it means less pain, a faster recovery, and less time in the hospital.
Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) is when drugs are put into the blood vessel that brings blood to the pancreatic tumor. It works well because this artery is also blocked at the same time. Transarterial chemoperfusion (TACP) is when antitumor drugs are put into the arteries that feed the cancerous growth. Because of this, more of the drug is in the cancerous tissue. Radioembolization is a way to put radioactive materials right into the arteries that feed the pancreatic tumor.
Ablation therapy is one more way to treat pancreatic cancer. It is based on the idea of killing tumors with radio waves (radiofrequency ablation, or RFA), microwaves (microwave ablation), or alcohol (ethanol ablation).
Radiation therapy is a widely used type of cancer treatment with high-energy radiation beams to help shrink the tumor in the pancreas and relieve pain. CyberKnife and GammaKnife are both advanced robotic systems for radiosurgery. With these systems, doctors can give high doses of radiation to cancerous cells in the pancreas in an effective way. This method is used as stage 3 pancreatic cancer treatment.
Proton beams are an exciting way to treat pancreatic cancer. It's a kind of radiation treatment. This method is different because it uses the energy of protons, which is much safer for living things.
If possible, surgery is the first step in treating pancreatic carcinoma. For some people, it is the only way to get better. Overseas, you can get newer radiation therapy, like intensity-modulated radiotherapy and proton therapy. They are less likely to have problems. Treatments for pancreatic cancer in stage 4 also include palliative procedures and operations. They are meant to eliminate pain, jaundice, and blockage in the intestines.
The outcome for pancreatic cancers
The chances for people with pancreatic cancer to recover are still not good, which is sad. That’s why some patients look for alternative treatments for pancreatic cancer, especially at late stages.
The main reasons for this low survival rate are:
- At first, there are no symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
- Second, cancer cells spread quickly to other body parts — nearby lymph nodes, the liver, and the lungs.
In the last few years, the number of people with pancreatic cancer who live for five years or longer has for males by 6.5%, and for females by 8.1%. However, this is still a long way from the goals that have been reached for other types of cancer. The outlook is better for people who had surgery as a treatment. On average, people live for 10 to 12 months, and if they live for five years, they are 25% better off.
How is pancreatic cancer found?
When there are no signs in the early stages, there is no way to know if someone has pancreatic cancer. However, suppose the doctor thinks it might be pancreatic cancer. In that case, they will order blood tests, an ultrasound, CT and PET-CT scans, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), and a biopsy.
Is pancreatic cancer possible to cure?
Because it grows so quickly, a pancreatic tumor is a dangerous neoplasm. Still, at least 10% of people who get it can get better. Many things can affect the outcome, such as the size and location of the tumor, any damage to the surrounding tissues and blood vessels, metastases, and the patient's general health.
What makes people with pancreatic cancer hurt?
Pain under the left rib cage is a sign of pancreatic cancer. This pain is very severe. When a tumor grows, it irritates nerves. Because nerve endings are so close to each other, the pain quickly spreads to the whole abdomen and back.
How quickly does cancer of the pancreas spread?
Pancreatic carcinoma is thought to be a process that spreads rapidly. As the tumor develops, it passes to surrounding tissues, the lymphatic system, and organs such as the duodenum, biliary, spleen, stomach, or large intestine. Cancer cells can also apply to organs far away through the bloodstream and lymphatic vessels.
How old do you have to be to get the risk of pancreatic cancer?
With age, the chance of getting a cancerous disease goes up a lot. Not even pancreatic cancer is different. Most of the patients are over 45 years old. And almost 90% of them are over 55.
Where can I get Pancreatic cancer treatment?
What are the best clinics for Pancreatic cancer treatment?
Who are the best doctors for Pancreatic cancer?
Prof. Dr. med. Hans Hoffmann from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Philipp M. Paprottka from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Roland M. Schmid from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Florian Bassermann from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Helmut Friess from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich