Categories: CancerOncology

Types of Pancreatic Cancer: All You Need to Know

Pancreatic cancer initiates from the tissues situated in the pancreas. This is an organ that is located behind the lower part of the stomach. It is responsible for releasing enzymes that help in digestion and production of hormones that regulate blood sugar in the body. The pancreas is prone to various types of growths, including cancerous and non-cancerous tumours.

The common types of pancreas cancer begin in their tissues and cells that line the duct, which carries digestive enzymes out from the pancreas. Unfortunately, this type of cancer is rarely detected in the early stages, where it has the highest success rates. It is because the actual symptoms start showing up when it has already spread to the other organs of the body.

What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

Here are some of the common symptoms of this disease:

  • Abdominal pain that goes to your back
  • Light-coloured stools
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Jaundice (yellowness in eyes and skin)
  • Fatigue
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes diagnosed recently or existing diabetes case that is out of control

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With This Disorder?

Various factors increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer are:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pancreatitis (chronic inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Older age
  • Family history of any genetic syndrome like BRCA2 gene mutation, FAMMM, or Lynch syndrome.

Types of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic carcinoma is primarily of two types; Exocrine (Non-endocrine) Pancreatic Cancer and neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer. Find the details about the different types of pancreatic cancer below:

  • Exocrine (Non-endocrine) Pancreatic Cancer – This type of cancer develops from the exocrine tissues that comprise the exocrine glands and pancreatic ducts. The exocrine gland secretes enzymes that help in breaking down complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and acids in the duodenum. They include the following:
  • Adenocarcinoma – Also known as pancreatic ductal carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, is one of the most common types of pancreatic cancers. Over 90% of the pancreatic cancers diagnosed belong to this category. This type of cancer happens in the pancreas duct lining. This condition can also be developed from the cells that produce pancreatic enzymes, known as acinar cell carcinoma. The symptoms of this condition are similar to pancreatic adenocarcinoma, which includes nausea, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Some patients might also experience joint pain and skin rashes due to increased enzyme levels in the body.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This is one of the rarest types of non-endocrine This cancer is formed in the pancreatic ducts and consists of squamous cells only that are not generally spotted in the pancreas. Though there is not much information about its causes and origins. However, studies have revealed that it generally has a bad prognosis because they are usually diagnosed after metastasis.
  • Adenosquamous Carcinoma – This type of cancer is more aggressive than the adenocarcinoma with a poor prognosis. They represent around 4% of the total exocrine pancreatic cancers in the world. The pancreatic endocrine tumour formed in this medical condition showcases characteristics of both squamous cell carcinoma and ductal adenocarcinoma.
  • Colloid Carcinoma – Again a very rare type of pancreatic cancer found in human beings. They account for approximately 3% of the exocrine pancreatic cancers in the world. The tumours in this condition tend to develop from a benign cyst, intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN). Fortunately, this type of pancreatic cancer is easy to treat, as the malignant cells tend to float in mucin only. It offers a much better prognosis than the above-mentioned types.
  • Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer – The pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours in this kind of pancreatic cancer develops from the tissues found in the pancreas endocrine gland. This gland is responsible for the secretion of glucagon and insulin hormones in the bloodstream to regulate the blood sugar level. They are also known as islet or endocrine cell tumours. These cancers are rare and make less than 5% of all cancer cases.
  • Benign Precancerous Lesions – This is the condition that forms cysts and other types of benign tumours in the pancreas. Some of these can be precursors or pancreatic cancer. Generally, intraductal papillary-mucinous neoplasms and other lesions are found when a person is diagnosed for an unrelated reason. Your doctor may consider removing the lesions surgically depending upon the type, growth rate and location of the They may even opt to monitor its progression and ensure that they don’t become malignant.

Some simple lifestyle habits can help you in preventing pancreatic cancer. You should, first of all, quit smoking completely to keep this disease at bay. Make sure you adopt an active routine consisting of exercises and workouts. A diet filled with colourful vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can help you in reducing the risk of this cancer substantially.

Dr. Saurabha Kumar | Consultant OncologyRadiation Oncology | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra, Bangalore

Narayana Health

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