Pancreatic cancer (also called cancer of the pancreas) is represented by the growth of a malignant tumour within the small pancreas organ. Each year about 31,000 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with this condition, with more than 60,000 in Europe. more...
- M8140/3: The most common form of this disease is known as adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. It is one of the most lethal forms of cancer with few victims still alive 5 years after diagnosis, and complete remission still extremely rare.
- M8150/1, M8150/3: A less common, and typically far less aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, is called islet-cell tumor (and is sometimes also known by the term neuroendocrine tumor).
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include :
- Male gender
- African-American ethnicity
- Diets high in meat
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Occupational exposure to certain pesticides, dyes, and chemicals related to gasoline
- Family history
- Helicobacter pylori infection
Early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult because the symptoms are so non-specific and varied. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, significant weight loss, jaundice, digestive problems, and depression.
Courvoisier's law is sometimes used to distinguish pancreatic cancer from gallstones.
Pancreatic cancer is usually discovered during the course of the evaluation of these symptoms by e.g. abdominal CT. Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is another procedure that can help visualize the tumor and obtain tissue to establish the diagnosis.
Treatment of pancreatic cancer depends on the stage of the cancer Recent advances have made resection of tumors that were previously unrescetable due to blood vessel involvement possible. The Whipple procedure is the most common surgical treatment for cancers involving the head of the pancreas.
Recent advances in the treatment of pancreatic cancer: For number of years, treatment of pancreatic cancer was limited to 5-FU alone. Then Gemcitabine was introduced. Gemcitabine had no survival advantage in pancreatic cancer compared to 5-FU, but the drug was FDA approved for pancreatic cancer based on better improvement in symptoms compared to 5-FU.
Targeted therapy using several new drugs is showing significant improvements in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. New drugs for the treatment of pancreatic cancer include: erlotinib, cetuximab, bevacizumab, tipifarnib. These drugs hold promise for the future treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer.
Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer typically have a poor prognosis because the cancer usually causes no symptoms early on, leading to metastatic disease at time of diagnosis. Median survival times from diagnosis of 3-4 months are not unknown.
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