What is pancreatic cancer?
The pancreas is an important organ in our body that is involved in the digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Pancreatic cancer is a malignancy that most often occurs in the ducts of the pancreas. Mostly affects elderly people after 50 years, more often men.
Most often the tumor is formed in the head of the gland (60% of cases), the end of the tail (10-15%) and the body of the pancreas (5-10%).
According to statistics for 2017, pancreatic cancer was at the 8th place in the incidence of the disease in Korea.
Symptoms and risk factors for pancreatic cancer
More than half of patients often experience abdominal pain, weight loss and jaundice.
Possible symptoms in pancreatic cancer:
- Pain in the solar plexus, but can be felt anywhere in the abdomen, in the lower back;
- Jaundice: occurs in 80% of cases where the tumor is in the head of the pancreas; not a frequent symptom of tumors in the body or tail of the gland;
- Diabetes: may manifest itself as a symptom or worsen existing diabetes;
- Weight loss, digestive problems, etc.
Proven risk factors for pancreatic cancer:
- Diabetes, chronic pancreatitis
- High-calorie food (red meat, processed meat products) etc.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect at the initial stage. It is very often detected when the disease has already spread to the nearest organs (liver, gallbladder, stomach, spine, duodenum), so the prognosis can be discomforting. The 5-year survival rate in Korea is less than 12.2% (higher than the U.S. and Europe), and remains the lowest rate of all cancers. The earlier the disease is detected, the higher the rates!
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to cure, but it is possible to prevent or detect at an early stage by following a healthy lifestyle and undergoing annual examinations!
Hospitals specializing in pancreatic cancer treatment in Korea
Medical Avenue has extensive experience with various hospitals in Korea (1st level hospitals – Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, St. Mary, Seoul National University Hospital; 2nd level hospitals – Ajou University Hospital, Cha Ilsan, etc.). The experience of our patients is important to us. Thus, our coordinators conduct a thorough assessment of the work of all: hospitals, doctors and medical staff. Our accumulated experience allows to make recommendations individually: according to the diagnosis and wishes of patients.
Medical Avenue recommends Professors Ho Jin Sok at Samsung Medical Center, Park Seung-Wu at Severance Hospital, and other hospitals with some of the best doctors in the field.
Additionally, some hospitals in Korea use experimental NK cell therapy in the treatment of cancer. This method uses the patient’s own NK cells. Cell collection occurs through the usual blood collection. Then, in the laboratory they multiply the cells millions of times and inject them back to the patient intravenously. This method helps to use your own immune system in the fight against cancer. Suitable for both patients with the initial stage and terminal stage of cancer. For more information, please contact our experts for advice.
Preliminary plan of surveys on pancreatic cancer in Korea
When contacting hospitals in Korea, a detailed examination is carried out to determine the stage of the spread of the disease and the presence of metastasis. The list of examinations is extensive, as the pancreas is near the vital organs, and, often, at the time of treatment, the disease has already spread to them. Regarding this, it is necessary to check in detail the nearest organs and the location of the tumor in the gland.
|List of examinations||Cost|
|– Ultrasound of abdominal organs|
– CT of abdominal organs
– Blood test
– Endoscopic ultrasound examination
– Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCHPG) with the installation of stents for the outflow of bile (if necessary)
|– Revision of histological glasses (if a biopsy was done in your country and histological glasses were brought in)||300$~600$2|
1 Cost according to these surveys. If there are comorbidities, the list of surveys and the cost may change. 2 Depending on the levels of the study, the cost may vary.
Preliminary plan for pancreatic cancer treatment in Korea
The treatment plan is based on the results of examinations, size and location of the tumor, stage, age and condition of the patient.
If it is possible to perform surgery according to the indications. The method will depend on the degree of progression, the location of the tumor, etc. Depending on the location of the tumor, the surgery may be the following types:
- If the tumor is in the head of the pancreas, then pancreatoduodenectomy is performed: the head of the gland with the tumor, the duodenum, part of the common bile duct and the gallbladder are removed. Sometimes part of the stomach is also removed. After it, the surgeon connects the remaining common bile duct, stomach and pancreas with the small intestine. The operation is long and complex, requiring a highly skilled surgeon. Thanks to the latest technology and the skills of doctors, it is currently the most advanced method of treating pancreatic cancer with a tumor in the head.
- If the tumor has spread throughout the pancreas, then a total pancreatectomy is performed. The gland is removed completely. In this case, after the operation, it is necessary to constantly receive insulin injections, since it is involved in the process of digestion and regulation of sugar.
- If the tumor is in the body or tail of the pancreas, then a distal pancreatectomy is performed: the body and tail of the gland, as well as the spleen, are removed.
Chemotherapy, jointly or separately from radiotherapy, is prescribed:
- After surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence
- Before surgery to shrink the tumor so that surgery can be performed
- To prolong and improve the quality of life
At the moment, development, clinical trials of new chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapy and immunotherapy are underway.
Radiation therapy is prescribed in the following cases:
- Before or after surgery to improve the effect of treatment
- When it is impossible to have surgery and there is no metastasis
- To improve symptoms caused by metastases
Korea uses the latest methods of radiotherapy. Proton therapy among them. Usually therapy is carried out on weekdays for 10-15 minutes for 5-6 weeks.
|Possible treatment options||Cost|
|– Radiotherapy||From $500 per 1 session3|
1 The cost may change, according to the method, the surgery and the individual characteristics of treatment. The price includes basic hospitalization in a multi-bed ward. 2 Protocol appoints an oncologist based on the results of all surveys. The cost depends on the assigned protocol. When prescribing immunotherapy, the cost may increase. 3 The cost of radiation therapy will depend on the type of therapy, the number of courses, dosage.
Approximate schedule for screening and treatment of pancreatic cancer in Korea
- Day 1: consultation with the professor, appointment of examinations
- Day 2-7: examinations (depending on the condition, may be hospitalization)
- Day 8-9: secondary consultation, survey results
- Surgery: scheduled, hospitalization for 2-3 weeks1
- Outpatient appointment after the results of the biopsy, appointment for further treatment. 2
1 The period of hospitalization varies depending on the volume of the operation and the recovery period. 2 The stay may change depending on the patient’s condition, the type of surgery and the schedule of the ward in which the treatment will take place.
Tips from a Medical Coordinator Pancreatic Cancer Treatment in Korea
- Be sure to follow the regimen and recommendations during treatment. Since digestive problems arise, it is recommended to take soft high-calorie food in small portions, but often, not to eat fatty foods.
- Bring with you all the medicines you take on a permanent basis. Add black tea, porridge, cereals, etc.
Frequently asked questions about pancreatic cancer treatment in Korea
Is chemotherapy necessary, even if the patient has stage 4 and prognosis is poor?
Perhaps this is the most important and complex issue in oncology. There is no correct answer, everyone has the right to take their own choice. But Korean doctors and Medical Avenue believe that nobody should give up! It It is necessary to think positively, to trust professionals and to receive treatment.
The average period of life during treatment is 12 months. This is the average, that is, there are better outcomes. This is a good time to be surrounded by family, doing your favorite things.
Medicine does not stand still, new drugs are being developed and tested, and we hope that in the near future they will find an effective treatment for pancreatic cancer. Just a couple of years ago there was no hope for patients with small cell lung cancer, but scientists invented a new effective drug!
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect, what measures should be taken to prevent its appearance?
First of all, do not dwell on this disease. Secondly, lead a healthy lifestyle and undergo annual comprehensive full examinations. The pancreas is behind the stomach and other organs, so it is poorly visible during ultrasound examination. For accurate diagnosis it is recommended to undergo in conjunction with a CT of abdominal organs with contrast and blood analysis.