Diet and Nutrition

Pancreatic Cancer: Get the Facts

Pancreatic Cancer: Get the Facts

Key Takeaways

What is Pancreatic Cancer: Get the Facts

Here are a few facts on pancreatic cancer.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a gland. It has an extremely important role to play in your body's functioning. It is responsible for regulating your blood sugar levels. 

What is a cancer?

Usually, your body produces cells when it needs; those cells die when your body does not need them. In cancer, cells divide when your body does not need them; they grow and divide at an abnormal speed. These cells do not die.

What causes cancer?

Generally, an alteration in genetic make-up causes cancer. Your cells are designed to function in a particular way directed by your genes and DNA, which is the basic coding structure of your body. An alteration in that pattern can lead to cancer. 

Inactivation of tumor suppressor genes is one of the most important causes of pancreatic cancers. Tumor suppressor genes are the genes which prevent the formation and growth of tumor causing cells.

Where does the cancer start?

Most of the times, pancreatic cancer starts in the ducts of pancreas. The pancreas has several ducts. They carry enzymes to your intestine to help you digest the food that you eat. The pancreas also has a large duct called the pancreatic duct.

Very rarely, pancreatic cancer occurs in hormone producing cells of the pancreas. Hormones are substances which are formed in the body; they don’t act at the place where they are formed. They act elsewhere. They are carried by your blood to their respective locations.

  • 75% of the time, pancreatic cancer affects the head or neck of the pancreas
  • 15-20% affect body of the pancreas
  • 5-10% affect the tail of the pancreas
  • Cancer that occurs in the ducts accounts for three-fourths of pancreatic cancers.
  • They are seen as hard white or yellow masses. They are located in the distal end of the pancreatic and bile ducts.
  • They tend to spread very fast to the liver and lungs.

A few facts:

  • Pancreatic cancer is lethal. It is the fourth leading cause of death in U.S. It contributes to 6% of cancer-related deaths.
  • It progresses at a very high speed and does not respond well to treatment.
  • Every year, 44,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer are reported in U.S. alone. These numbers are growing every year.
  • It usually occurs in the age group of 65 plus.
  • Only 13% of cases are reported below the age of 55.
  • Men are at a higher risk than women.
  • Cigarette smoking and hereditary factors are linked strongly to Pancreatic cancer.
  • Certain diseases such as Diabetes, H.Pylori infection, inflammation of Pancreas and Periodontal disease pose a higher risk to Pancreatic cancer. Diabetes is a condition wherein your blood sugar levels (BSL) are higher than normal. A HBA1c of above 6.4 mg/dl indicates Diabetes. The HBA1c is a test which measures your average BSL from the past 2 to 3 months. Periodontal disease is a disease of your gums and supporting structures of tooth wherein the teeth become loose.
  • Being of African American origin and a non O-blood type also increases your risk.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

  1. Epigastric pain/pain in the upper stomach region
  2. Digestive system disorders such as excessive  flatulence and constipation
  3. Vomiting
  4. Weight loss
  5. Jaundice 
  • This cancer is usually noticed when it has progressed considerably.
  • It is diagnosed by certain procedures such as a CT scan or MRI.
  • The 5 year survival rate of this type of cancer is less than 10%.
  • Surgery is the only option for Ppancreatic cancer that is diagnosed early.
  • If it cannot be removed surgically, which happens in advanced cases, pancreatic cancer is treated by medicine and radiotherapy.
  • Prevention and stopping the progression of pancreatic cancer can be achieved by modifying diet. Restricting the amount of calories, avoiding fats and consuming more of fruits and vegetables is the key. Consumption of turmeric and green tea also helps.