Cancer of the pancreas is one of the most rapidly fatal of all cancers and most cases are first recognized at a far advanced clinical stage. Every third Thursday in November the international community commemorates the World Pancreatic Cancer Day (WPCD). During this time people around the globe unite to highlight the need for greater awareness, funding, and research for pancreatic cancer.
In recent times, more Nigerians have lost their lives to one of the hardest-to-treat, most lethal malignancy and the fourth cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide after cancer of the lungs, colon and breast. According to the latest WHO data published in 2018 Pancreatic Cancer Deaths in Nigeria reached 1,908 or 0.10% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 2.36 per 100,000 of population ranks Nigeria #120 in the world.
Several researches have shown that as people age, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases. Most pancreatic cancer patients are older than 45, and nearly 90 per cent are older than 55. The average age at diagnosis is 71. Men have a slightly higher likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer than women, which may partly result from increased tobacco use in men.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include the following:
- Having a personal history of diabetes or chronic pancreatitis.
- Having a family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.
- Having certain hereditary conditions, such as:
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome.
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch syndrome).
- Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome.
- Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome.
Although the early stages of pancreatic cancer are often asymptomatic and can take years to develop, common symptoms include:
- Abdominal or mid-back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in stool
- Sudden onset of diabetes and glucose intolerance
Due to a lack of early diagnosing tools and standardized screening tests, individuals with pancreatic cancer often receive a late diagnosis when the disease has progressed so far that it becomes very difficult to treat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1,200 people around the world will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each day and a horrifying 95% of these individuals will die from the disease.
Early diagnosis is crucial. Receiving timely intervention for pancreatic cancer can greatly improve survival and quality of life.. However, it is not clearly known what the causes and risks are for pancreatic cancer. There is some evidence that eating charred meat can increase your risk. Age, smoking, being overweight, family history, pancreatitis, and diabetes may also increase your risk for developing this disease.
Imaging tests of internal organs. These tests help doctors visualize the internal organs, including the pancreas. Techniques used to diagnose pancreatic cancer include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and, sometimes, positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Using a scope to create ultrasound pictures of the pancreas: An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) uses an ultrasound device to make images of the pancreas from inside a patient’s abdomen. The device is passed through a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) down your oesophagus and into your stomach in order to obtain the images.
Removing a tissue sample for testing (biopsy): A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope. Most often the tissue is collected during EUS by passing special tools through the endoscope. Less often, a sample of tissue is collected from the pancreas by inserting a needle through your skin and into your pancreas (fine-needle aspiration).
Blood test: Your doctor may test your blood for specific proteins (tumor markers) shed by pancreatic cancer cells. One tumor marker test used in pancreatic cancer is called CA19-9. It may be helpful in understanding how the cancer responds to treatment. But the test isn’t always reliable because some people with pancreatic cancer don’t have elevated CA19-9 levels, making the test less helpful.
For patients with pancreatic cancer, understanding their tumor biology and genetic makeup can help identify the treatment options that may work best for them. Also, they can learn if they have inherited mutations that could impact their family’s health.
Depending on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, treatment options for people with pancreatic cancer can include:
- Radiation Therapy
- Ablation or Embolization Treatments
- Targeted Therapy
- Pain Control
Certain types of cancer treatment like chemotherapy medications can also weaken your immune system. That can leave you vulnerable to infections. It is recommended that one takes immune boosting drugs to protect against infections. An example of Immune boosting drug is Immunozin Capsules. Immunozin capsules boosts body immunity and protects against a wide variety of ailments and diseases. This immune booster contains extracts that also helps in the management of chronic diseases including diabetes, asthma, and sickle cell.