If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it’s very important to know if it’s an endocrine cancer or exocrine cancer. They have distinct risk factors and causes, have different signs and symptoms, are diagnosed with different tests, are treated in different ways, and have different outlooks. Exocrine is the most common type of pancreatic cancer and starts when exocrine cells in the pancreas start to grow out of control. Endocrine is similar in that it is when the endocrine cells begin to grow out of control. However, endocrine cells make up a smaller percentage of the cells in the pancreas and are responsible for making important hormones like insulin and glucagon, and releasing them directly into the blood.
According to the American Cancer Society, almost 57,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2019. There will also be about 46,000 deaths from pancreatic cancer in the United States during the year 2019. Symptoms for pancreatic cancer can vary and typically do not appear until the disease is advanced. The more common symptoms include weight loss, abdominal discomfort that may radiate to the back, jaundice, and occasionally the development of type 2 diabetes. Some signs of the advancement of pancreatic cancer may include severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Risk Factors According to The American Cancer Society:
How Our Team Treats Pancreatic Cancer
Depending on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, treatment options for people with pancreatic cancer can include surgery, ablation or embolization treatments, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other drugs. At the Radiation Oncology Services at Charleston Area Medical Center, we use a form of radiation therapy called external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) to treat pancreatic cancer painlessly and without surgery.
EBRT, which is an effective treatment for pancreatic cancer, works within cancer cells to damage their ability to multiply. During treatment, high-energy X-rays are delivered to the cancer with a linear accelerator (LINAC). Treatments are delivered daily Monday through Friday and each treatment only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The treatment process is safe and will not burn or hurt you. Side effects are usually minimal, and most patients return to routine activities immediately after each treatment. Several factors determine candidacy for radiation therapy treatment including the stage of the cancer, potential side effects, age and overall health. Sometimes a combination of treatments is the best plan for treating pancreatic cancer, particularly when the cancer has spread and grown beyond the pancreas. Radiation therapy may also be delivered as a palliative treatment to relieve symptoms, such as pain, in patients with advanced disease.
Radiation Oncology Services at CAMC’s Advantage
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