Get Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer

Great Surgical Care at Marina del Rey Hospital

Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment?

If you struggle with pancreatic cancer, Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital is the perfect hospital for you, as we have ultramodern medical equipment by which our skillful and experienced specialists can treat your disease. Since 1969, we have been providing the community of Los Angeles with healthcare and are always striving to improve the quality of our services. When you come to our hospital, you will receive the most effective treatment for pancreatic cancer in a warm and compassionate environment, as we place great emphasis on the comfort and wellbeing of our patients.

The pancreas is a gland located in the abdomen just behind your stomach and in front of your spine that releases several hormones, such as insulin. Furthermore, pancreatic secretions also help the digestion of food and help the body use glucose. Since cancer can develop nearly anywhere in the body, the pancreas is, unfortunately, no exception.

Every year, over 60,000 people in the United States receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, whereas other 48,000 lose their lives to this disease. Pancreatic cancer begins developing when malignant cells start growing in the organ's lining. While this disease is most common in people over the age of 65 and rarely occurs in individuals under 45, it can develop at any age, depending on how many risk factors you are exposed to.

There is no specific test for detecting pancreatic cancer, but the disease can be diagnosed by using a series of diagnostic methods. Pancreatic cancer accounts for 3% of all cancer cases and 7% of all cancer deaths throughout the country. The average lifetime risk for pancreatic cancer is 1 in 64. Regrettably, the disease is often diagnosed when it has reached advanced stages, as most people do not experience symptoms until pancreatic cancer has spread to nearby parts of the body.

The treatment you will receive for pancreatic cancer highly depends on the stage of the disease, whether it has spread to adjacent tissues and organs, your overall health, your age, and your preferences. Treatment for pancreatic cancer can be either local or systemic. While the former refers to treatment that removes, destroys, or controls malignant cells in one area, the latter concerns treatment that destroys or controls malignant cells that have traveled around your body.

If you are a good candidate for surgery, you will undergo one of the following procedures to have your cancerous tumor removed from your pancreas:

  • Whipple procedure: during this surgery, the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, a part of the stomach, a part of the small intestine, and the bile duct are removed, and you will have enough pancreatic tissue left to produce digestive juices and insulin
  • total pancreatectomy: this surgery entails the removal of the entire pancreas, a part of the stomach, a part of the small intestine, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, the spleen, and nearby lymph nodes and is often recommended to people whose pancreatic cancer has spread
  • distal pancreatectomy: during this surgery, the body and the tail of the pancreas will be removed, and the spleen may also be resected if it is affected by cancer

In the unfortunate case that your cancer has spread beyond control, you will have to undergo palliative surgery to experience the alleviation of your symptoms and a better quality of life. The following are the most effective palliative surgeries for advanced pancreatic cancer:

  • biliary bypass: when the malignant tumor is obstructing the bile duct, and bile is building up in the gallbladder, a biliary bypass will be performed, which implies cutting the gallbladder or bile duct in the area before the blockage and sewing it to the small intestine to form a new pathway around the obstructed area
  • endoscopic stent placement: if the malignant tumor is blocking the bile duct, the surgeon will place a small tube, known as a stent, to drain the excess fluid that has built up, and the stent will either be placed through a catheter that drains bile into a bag on the outside of the body, or the stent may go around the obstructed area and drain the bile into the small intestine
  • gastric bypass: if the malignant tumor is hindering the flow of food, the stomach will be sewn directly to the small intestine so that you can eat normally

Chemotherapy is another effective treatment for people with pancreatic cancer, regardless of the stage of the disease. It may be given before or after the surgery to destroy as many cancerous cells as possible or as a sole treatment for pancreatic cancer. The best chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, which are administered in the form of a pill or injection, are the following:

  • gemcitabine
  • 5-fluorouracil
  • irinotecan
  • oxaliplatin
  • albumin-bound paclitaxel
  • capecitabine
  • cisplatin
  • paclitaxel
  • docetaxel
  • irinotecan liposome

Radiotherapy is another treatment you may be advised to undergo for pancreatic cancer. It entails receiving high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to destroy malignant cells or keep them under control by preventing their growth. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to deliver radiation to the area of the body with cancer. When chemotherapy and radiotherapy are received at the same time, this treatment is known as chemoradiation therapy. They are usually combined to increase their effects.

Finally, targeted therapy may also be useful in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. This treatment involves medication or other substances that identify and attack certain malignant cells. The benefit of this treatment is that it causes fewer side effects than chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are targeted therapy drugs that block the signals needed for malignant tumors to grow, and erlotinib is a targeted therapy drug used to treat pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer has multiple types depending on the malignant cells involved in the tumor. The following are the types of pancreatic cancer:

  • adenocarcinoma: also known as ductal carcinoma, adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer, accounting for over 90% of pancreatic cancer diagnoses, and it develops in the lining of the ducts in the pancreas
  • squamous cell carcinoma: this is a very rare type of pancreatic cancer that develops in the pancreatic ducts and is made solely of squamous cells, which are not usually found in the pancreas
  • adenosquamous carcinoma: adenosquamous carcinoma represents 1% to 4% of all pancreatic cancer diagnoses, and it usually has a very aggressive onset and a relatively poor prognosis
  • colloid carcinoma: as another rare type of pancreatic cancer, colloid carcinoma develops from a type of benign cyst known asĀ  intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

It is worthy of note that some people with pancreatic cancer, even in advanced stages, do not experience any bothersome symptoms. However, the following are the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer:

  • yellowing of your eyes and skin
  • itchy skin
  • dark yellow or brown urine
  • pale, greasy, bulky stools that float in the toilet
  • pain in your stomach or back
  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue
  • gallbladder or liver swelling
  • blood clots in your leg
  • blood clots in your lung
  • uneven, lumpy fatty tissue under your skin

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

The diagnostic process of pancreatic cancer begins with your doctor asking you about the symptoms you are experiencing. You should provide your physician with as many details as you know about how you feel so that they can properly assess your health. Afterward, they will conduct a physical exam during which they will look for yellowing of the skin and eyes and other visible signs of pancreatic cancer.

Subsequently, if they suspect you may have pancreatic cancer, they will order some of the following tests and exams:

  • blood tests: your blood will be examined for the presence of specific proteins, medically known as tumor markers, that are released in your blood by malignant pancreatic tumors, and one tumor marker test used in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is CA19-9, whose presence in your blood may indicate the existence of pancreatic cancer in your body
  • imaging tests: you will undergo a CT or MRI scan, which will provide your doctor with clear and detailed images of your pancreas that will allow them to see whether there is a tumor on the organ, as well as whether cancer has spread to nearby parts of the body
  • endoscopic ultrasound: this diagnostic test uses a device to make images of your pancreas from inside your abdomen, which is passed through a thin and flexible tube right into your stomach to capture the images
  • biopsy: a biopsy entails a surgeon removing a small sample of tissue from the tumor on your pancreas, which will subsequently be examined by a pathologist under the microscope for the presence of malignant cells

While the precise cause of pancreatic cancer has not yet been found by medical researchers, there are some factors whose presence in your life may significantly increase your chances of developing this malignant disease, such as:

  • age: the majority of people with pancreatic cancer are over the age of 45
  • gender: men are more often diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than women
  • race and ethnicity: being African-American or of Ashkenazi Jewish descent was found to increase your likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer
  • tobacco use: people who smoke are 2 to 3 times more susceptible to developing pancreatic cancer than nonsmokers
  • heavy alcohol use: chronic, heavy alcohol consumption may also increase the risk of coming to struggle with pancreatic cancer by causing recurrent pancreatitis, which refers to the inflammation of the pancreas
  • obesity: eating foods high in fat regularly is a significant risk factor for pancreatic cancer, and so is carrying extra pounds
  • type 2 diabetes: people who suffer from diabetes are more prone to developing pancreatic cancer over the years
  • chronic pancreatitis: the chronic inflammation of the pancreas can eventually lead to the growth of a malignant tumor on your pancreas
  • family history: if one of your close family members has pancreatic cancer, you are more likely to develop it later in life as well
  • cirrhosis of the liver: cirrhosis occurs when liver cells are damaged and are replaced by scar tissue, and the majority of cirrhosis cases in the United States are caused by drinking a lot of alcohol regularly, which is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer
  • certain inherited genetic syndromes: genetic syndromes such as Lynch syndrome, MEN1, hereditary breast, and ovarian cancer syndrome, and hereditary pancreatitis may increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer
  • H. pylori infection: infection with this bacteria causes inflammation and ulcers in the stomach and also increases the risk of both stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer

While you cannot prevent receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer if you have a predisposition to developing this disease, there are certain risk factors you can avoid by:

  • eating a healthy diet low in fat
  • being physically active
  • maintaining at a healthy weight
  • quitting smoking
  • drinking alcohol in moderation

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