Archive for November, 2013

November- Pancreatic Cancer and Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is Pancreatic Cancer and Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Pancreatic Cancer:

Pancreatic cancer ribbon

Pancreas- Pear shaped gland located in the abdomen between stomach and spine made up of two major components:

Exocrine Component- Made up of ducts and acini (small sacs on the end of the ducts). Makes enzymes (specialized proteins) that are released into the small intestine to help the body digest and breakdown food particularly fats.

Endocrine Component- Made up of specialized cells lumped together in islands in the organ called islets of Langerhans. These cells make specific hormones, most importantly insulin, which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood.

Types of Pancreatic Cancer: There are several types depending on whether the cancer began in the endocrine or exocrine component.

Exocrine Tumors- Most common type. About 95% of people with pancreatic cancer have adenocarcinoma which starts in ducts of the pancreas called ductal adenocarcinoma.

Less Common: If tumor begins in the acini it is called acinar adenocarcinoma. Common diagnosis is called intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN)- A tumor that grows within the ducts of the pancreas and makes a thick fluid called mucin. IPMN is not cancerous when it begins but could become cancerous if not treated. Sometimes an IPMN has already become cancer by the time it is diagnosed. Rarer types of exocrine pancreatic cancer include: Acinar cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, colloid carcinoma, giant cell tumor, hepatoid carcinoma, mucinous cystic neoplasms, pancreatoblastoma, serous cystdenoma, signet ring cell carcinoma, solid and pseudopapillary tumors, squamous cell carcinoma and undifferentiated carcinoma.

Endocrine Tumors- Also called islet cell tumors or pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNET). Much less common than exocrine tumors (1%).  Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor can be functioning meaning it makes hormones or non-functioning meaning it doesn’t make hormones . A functioning neuroendocrine tumor is named based on the hormone the cells normally make.

Signs and Symptoms:

Not many noticeable symptoms early on. When there are symptoms they are similar to other medical conditions such as ulcers or pancreatitis.

  • Yellow skin and eyes, darkening of the urine, itching, and clay colored stool, which are signs of obstructive jaundice (Blockage of bile ducts)
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or lower back
  • Painful swelling due to a blood clot
  • Burning feeling in stomach or other gastrointestinal discomforts
  • Stomach bloating
  • Floating stools with bad odor and unusual color due to body not digesting fats well
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomitting
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss

Prevention: No established guidelines for prevention. Best approach is to avoid risk factors as much as possible.

Helpful Links:


Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer- Usually begins when cells in the lung change and grow uncontrollably forming a mass called a tumor. A lung tumor can begin anywhere in the lung.


Two major types:  Non small cell and small cell.

Non small cell (NSCLC ): comes from epitneliat cells and is the most common type.

Small Cell: begins in the nerve cells or hormone- producing cells  of the lung. The term “small cell” refers to the size and shape of the cancer cells as seen under a microscope.

It is important for doctors to distinguish between the two because they are usually treated in different ways.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain if tumor spreads to the lining  of the lung or other parts of the body near the lungs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing up phlegm or mucus
  • Coughing up blood

Prevention: There is no proven way to completely prevent lung cancer. Quitting smoking lowers the risk.

Helpful Links:


Also if you haven’t already please read these previous posts!!



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