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Causes and Prevention from Pancreatic Cancer

Even though there is no definitive way for an individual to prevent pancreatic cancer, there are simple guidelines which can reduce the risk.

Smoking: The inhalation of cigarette smoke is the number one reason any individual will develop cancer. If an individual smokes, it actually takes their lungs 15 years to stabilize to that of a healthy individual's lungs. In essence, do not smoke.

However, if an individual does smoke, he/she should consult their local doctor on ways to quit.
Healthy Weight: Some doctors will advise individuals to refer to the body mass index, while other doctors would disagree, claiming "every individual is different." Either way the message is clear; stay in shape. Being overweight actually increases the risk of pancreatic cancer by tenfold. If an individual is interested in losing weight, he/she should contact their local physician first. Once, the doctor has advise the individual in the correct steps, he/she should also implement a regimented diet, in order to produce the best results.
Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle can actually increase individual's risk of several different diseases, including pancreatic cancer. However, an active lifestyle can harness an individual's entire external make up, there in turn reforming their internal make up. This alteration will allow the person's organ system to run smooth, create a strong a immune system, and build a tight bone structure. Each person should remain active for the recommended amount of daily exercise; 30 minutes. Depending on the person's physical shape, he/she should start off slow, and work up to a certain goal.
Healthy Diet: Recent studies have shown that a healthy diet can decrease the percentage of developing pancreatic cancer at one point in a person's lifetime. Although every individual is different, it is important to stick to nutritious diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in order to reduce their risk. Several studies done in 2006 concluded that Vitamin D can actually cut an individuals chance of developing pancreatic cancer by 50%. Other vitamins that have been known to have a positive effect on the decrease in pancreatic cancer risks are Vitamins B12, Vitamins B6, and Folate.
Types of Pancreatic Cancer: Pancreatic cancer can originate in both the exocrine and the endocrine cells of the pancreas. Both cell types can form two very contrasting forms of tumors. The exocrine cells are more likely to develop cancer. The symptoms of exocrine cell cancer and endocrine cell cancer are different and are discovered using differing tests. Pancreatic tumors can be both benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous). What is the Pancreas Function? To understand how both exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cancers affect the pancreas, it is important to understand the functions of the organ. The pancreas, located behind the stomach, made up of two different types of glands. These are the exocrine and endocrine glands. The exocrine glands (making up 95 percent of the pancreatic tissue) are responsible for creating what is referred to as pancreatic "juice," a substance that is sent to the intestines through ducts. This substance is comprised of enzymes that assist in digesting the food a person eats. They digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates. This makes the pancreas extremely important in the process of digestion. The endocrine cells, making up a smaller total of the pancreatic tissue, are arranged in groups called islets. These islets are responsible for releasing special hormones, including insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. Insulin is a substance that reducing the amount of sugar in the blood and glucagon increases the sugar level. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is not releasing insulin. Exocrine Tumors of the Pancreas The most common form of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic cancer almost always refers to a type of exocrine tumor.
While exocrine tumors (and even cysts) can sometimes be benign, in most cases, they are malignant. Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that can begin in the glands of several different organs, is the most common form of pancreatic cancer, making up about 90 to 95 percent of all cases of pancreatic cancer. Usually originating in the ducts of the pancreas, adenomcarinoma can also start in the cells that comprise the enzyme-producing glands. Ampullary Cancer: Also known as carcinoma of the ampulla of Vater is a type of cancer that develops in the area where the bile duct and pancreatic duct meet and drain into the duodenum. This area is called ampulla of Vater. This cancer blocks the bile duct and can cause a build up of bile within the body. This leads to yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), and darkening of the urine. These distinct symptoms allow ampullary cancer to be detected early and as a result, are usually more successfully treated than other forms of pancreatic cancer. Other Types of Exocrine Tumors: There are also less common ductal cancers of the pancreas. One of them being adenosquamous carcinoma, a type of cancer that contains squamous cells which are thin and flat, and gland-like cells. Squamous cell carcinoma can affect the pancreas, which is a type of malignant tumor. Finally, giant cell carcinomas can develop in the pancreas, a type of malignant tumor that is characterized by the larger-than-normal size of the cells. Treatment for Exocrine Tumors: Although the pancreas may develop several types of tumors, the treatment is not dependent on type, but rather the stage of the cancer. The stage of the cancer is a system used by physicians to describe how large the tumor is and how far it has spread through surrounding tissue and distant parts of the body. Endocrine Tumors of the Pancreas Endocrine tumors are very rare. They are often referred to as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) or simply islet cell tumors. Endocrine tumors of the pancreas come in several forms, usually classified by which type of cells are affected and the hormone they produce.

| Insulinomas is a tumor that develops in cells that create insulin; | Glucagonomas is a tumor that is formed in cells that create glucagon; |  Gastrinomas is a tumor that is formed in cells that release gastrin; | Somatostatinomas is a tumor that is created in cells that make somatostatin | VIPomas is a tumor that originates in cells that create vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP); | PPomas is a tumor that starts in cells that create pancreatic polypeptide.|

Tumors of the endocrine pancreas cells are usually "functioning" tumors, meaning that the tumors themselves release hormones into the body. Some tumors, however, do not release hormones into the bloodstream and they are called "non-functioning." Endocrine tumors are both benign (pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors) and malignant (pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinomas). It is very tough for physicians to determine the difference between a benign and malignant tumor, so diagnosis is not always clear up front. It usually takes some time to wait for the tumor to react to finally reach a conclusion.
About 1 percent of all pancreatic cancers are pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinomas. Treatment of the tumor generally depends on the stage of the cancer and the outlook is almost always better than exocrine pancreatic cancers. The two most common forms of pancreatic endocrine tumors are gastrinomas and insulinomas. The other types rarely occur.
Exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cancers are very different from each other. They have different symptoms, diagnosis methods, treatments, and prognoses.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms and Research: Pancreatic cancer is a deadly form of cancer due to its few symptoms during its early stages. When pancreatic cancer does begin to show symptoms, then it is usually in an advanced stage where it has spread to nearby organs and tissue. Early detection has been a problem that many researchers have been looking into for pancreatic cancer. There have been several breakthroughs in technology that look for promising for the future. In addition, new ways of treating pancreatic cancer are also being researched, along with ways in improving currently existing treatments. Pancreatic Cancer Research in Early Detection Many scientists have been researching genetics to lead to a discovery for effective early detection of pancreatic cancer. Researchers are examining the changes to DNA that are present as cells in the pancreas begin to divide into cancerous cells. Some research indicates that certain genes contribute to increase risks of pancreatic cancer. Other research is being focused on what is called the K-ras oncogene and how changes in DNA affect cell division. Samples of pancreatic juice suggest can be tested and the results may determine this. Also, endoscopic ultrasound tests, a fairly new technology have shown promising results for early detection of treatable pancreatic cancer. This, along with DNA testing show that one day early detection for people considered high at risk for pancreatic cancer will be one day possible through relatively simple tests. Pancreatic Cancer Research in Treatment Aside from early detection, extensive research in improving pancreatic treatment are diligently being looked into by scientists. Surgery and radiation techniques are two primary research vehicles for pancreatic cancer treatment and how they can be better improved to increase the likelihood of a full patient recovery. They are also concerned with choosing the treatment option that is best for each stage of the cancer. Chemotherapy: New chemotherapy drugs are tested for many different types of cancer, as well as drugs used primarily for pancreatic cancer. The standard drugs to treat pancreatic cancer include gemcitabine and 5-FU. Researchers are testing combinations of these two standard drugs with newly developed chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, oxaliplatin, docetaxel, irinotecan, and pemetrexed. In addition, combinations of chemotherapy and other treatment options are being experimented, such as using a blend of chemotherapy and radiation therapy together. Another goal is to determine which chemotherapy drugs come with the least amount of side-effects, especially long-term side effects that can plague a patient, such as kidney damage. Targeted Therapy: Currently, researchers are learning more and more about the difference between normal pancreatic cells and pancreatic cancer cells. This is useful, because new target treatment plans are beginning to be developed. Researchers are looking into different treatments that only affect cells with cancer characteristics. This approach takes a more focused effort into fighting the disease and helps to minimize side effects that are usually apparent in chemotherapy. Searching for new characteristics to target is an ongoing research effort. Growth Factor Inhibitors: Scientists have discovered growth factor receptors on the surface of cancer cells. These are molecules that help a cancer cell to grow and divide at a rapid rate and are found in pancreatic cancer cells. Drugs that target these molecules are currently being researched heavily. The current known ones are erlotinib and gemcitabine, both of which have been approved for use for cancer treatment. Anti-angiogenesis Factors: Cancers, including pancreatic cancer, rely on blood vessels to help replenish their cells with nutrients. Researchers are discovering ways to block these blood vessels so that the tumor does not receive nutrients, and in turn, the cancer cells begin to die. This is a type of treatment that is currently being studied in clinical trials and is being researched for use in pancreatic cancer treatment. Other Targeted Therapies: Other targeted therapies are also being studied.
They are treatments that target cancer cell functions, such as farnesyl transferase, a special enzyme that stimulates cancer growth. Drugs are being developed to destroy this enzyme. Other targets are also being discovered. Immune Therapy in Pancreatic Cancer Research Immune therapy is a type of treatment that is designed to boost a person's immune system so that it can better target and attack cancer cells. This type of treatment has shown many promising initial results. Vaccines are also being developed that equip a person's immune system to attack cancer cells as soon as they begin to grow inside a person. The immune system, theoretically will identify cancer cells as being foreign invaders and destroy them. Tumors can then be prevented, shrunk, and inhibited from returning in a relatively safe process. Another immune therapy being tested to combat pancreatic cancer is called monoclonal antibodies, a man made protein that is injected into a patient. These proteins target specific aspects of cancer cells to inhibit their growth. Toxins and radioactive atoms can be attached to these proteins and they theoretically can be carried to tumor cells. This treatment is designed so that normal cells are unharmed during treatment. This is only in the clinical testing stage. Low Molecular Weight Heparin in Pancreatic Research Researchers discovered that by giving patients with advanced stages of pancreatic cancer chemotherapy along with a substance called low molecular weight heparin (LMWH), the chemotherapy showed signs of working more effectively. In this test, tumors shrunk further than with chemotherapy alone. Normally, LMWH is given to treat patients with blood clots because it acts as a blood thinner. Patients who received LMWH also lived longer as well. Currently, clinical trials are testing to see if these initial results are accurate and hold true for all patients. Individualization of Therapy in Pancreatic Research Researchers have discovered the possibility that certain drugs work only on certain patients. This usually depends on which type of mutations are found on a patient's pancreatic tumor. The ability to know which drugs would work on certain individuals before treatment is administered is an exciting prospect in cancer research and is under extensive study.
Pancreatic Cancer Screening: Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is a very difficult condition to detect early. This is because the pancreas is an organ that is deep inside the body under the stomach and cannot be thoroughly examined by a physician during a standard exam for early staged tumors. Also, there are no obvious symptoms of pancreas cancer early on in its development. Instead, pancreas cancer begins to show symptoms after it has already spread to other surrounding organs. To add more difficulty, there are no blood tests that are accurate in finding early stages of pancreatic cancer. There is, however, a number of promising techniques that are currently being tested and a lot of research is going into pancreatic cancer to find advanced ways of detecting it in its treatable phases. Endoscopic Ultrasounds: An endoscopic ultrasound is a new advanced form of the commonly used ultrasound device. It uses sound waves to create detailed images on a monitor, but it uses a special instrument that is sent through a patient's mouth or rectum. It can also be used to take biopsy tissue samples at the same time. Blood Tests: Blood tests are not a viable method of screening for pancreatic cancer. A substance called CA19-9 can be detected in blood when pancreatic cancer is present, but the levels of CA19-9 are not high enough to be detected until the cancer is in an advance stage. The CA19-9 blood test is, however, used during the treatment of pancreatic cancer to see if it is working or after to see if the cancer has returned. Genetic Testing: Many researchers believe that genetic testing is one key to finding a useful screening method for pancreatic cancer. DNA that is inherited can cause as much as 10 percent of all cases of pancreatic cancer. These same DNA attributes can also be linked to other forms of cancer, so it is not an easy process. People who have a family history of cancer may want to talk to a doctor who specializes inherited diseases and conditions, such as a genetic counselor, or geneticist. A person who would like to receive genetic testing should know the risks and benefits of doing so first.
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