Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is more common in western countries and no symptoms appear in the early term.  For instance, symptoms like abdominal pain, weight loss and jaundice are usually observed at advanced stages of the pancreatic cancer. 

What does a pancreas do?

Many enzymes secreted by pancreas access to the bowels and help digestion.  Pancreas also releases very important hormones for our body.  One of these is insulin which balances the blood glucose.

Who are at risk for pancreatic cancer?

Smokers, obese individuals (a body mass index at 35 and over is a serious risk for pancreatic cancer), diabetic patients. Those with a history of chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer in the family. Those with Peutz Jeghers syndrome which may cause mass formation in the gastrointestinal system or other genetic disorders

How can pancreatic cancer be prevented?

Researches especially indicate that smoking causes pancreatic cancer. I recommend to avoid smoking. You may both decrease the risk to have pancreatic cancer and many severe diseases. If there is a cyst in the pancreas, removal of these cysts to prevent transformation into pancreatic cancer is very important.

How nutrition is important?

In facts, there is not any study indicating certain foods that protect against pancreatic cancer.  However, there are scientific studies which demonstrate protection of overall health by a healthy diet, restriction of calorie intake, eating high fiber foods, avoiding sugar. To eat fruits-vegetables, to avoid fatty and sweet foods are especially important. 

Is early diagnosis difficult in pancreatic cancer?

A detailed CT scan is useful to diagnose pancreatic cancer. Along with these results, it is possible to diagnose correctly through examination of the patients, some blood tests and considering family history of the patient.  However, early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is very difficult.  Because, there is not any screening test for pancreatic cancer which may be applied on the community.  However, those with pancreatic cyst and those who have pancreatic cancer cases or another genetic disorders in the family should have regular control visits for early diagnosis.

What is done in treatment of pancreatic cancer?

A multidisciplinary approach is very important in patients with pancreatic cancer.  In John Hopkins, these patients are evaluated by general surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists and pathologists.  We provide specific treatment options.  If a patient has to be operated, we suggest pancreatectomy (removal of whole pancreas) through minimally invasive methods.  This procedure is performed through laparoscopic method or robotic surgery. 

Are there any innovations in the treatment?

We observed that patients with advanced stage pancreatic cancer have better respond to the treatment for last five years through newly developed chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies. Furthermore, we carry out many scientific studies in Johns Hopkins about immunotherapy (to activate immune system cells of the body against tumor cells and to prevent development and invasion of cancer).

When is surgery necessary in pancreatic cancer?

Surgical removal of the tumor completely is the only option to prevent invasion of the tumor in pancreatic cancer.  These patients should have the surgery immediately.  We provide an option of minimally invasive surgery which tires the patient less through small incisions. We suggest chemotherapy after the surgery for advanced stage patients and radiation therapy for some cases. 


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