New Delhi: Death of
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs due to pancreatic cancer has brought
into focus this rare and aggressive form of cancer, which is
causing concern in India following a rise in incidences of the
disease, especially in Mizoram.
Jobs, who led a mobile-computing revolution with wildly popular
devices such as the iPhone, died Wednesday in California, US,
after battling cancer for years.
According to medical experts, pancreatic cancer, with a negligible
survival rate, is ranked fourth in cancer-related deaths in the
US. The cancer form has seen a rise in India.
The global prevalence rate of pancreatic cancer is 1 per 100,000
people per year against the 80 per 100,000 people per year cases
of breast cancer - one of the most prevalent cancers among women.
According to global figures, of the 232,000 people diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer in 2002, 227,000 died by 2010.
Shyam Aggarwal, Chairman Department of Medical Oncology, Sir Gangaram Hospital, says that pancreatic cancer is an aggressive,
fast growing disease which kills its victims within five years
"There are two known types of pancreatic cancer - adenocarcinoma
and neuroendocrine tumour. Jobs was affected by the latter, an
extremely rare form reported in just five percent of people
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer," Aggarwal told IANS.
The tumours are usually located on the head of the pancreas - an
organ that helps break down food so it can be absorbed into the
body - where they can block the bile duct and cause jaundice.
"Pancreatic cancer is less common in India compared to western
countries but now incidences of pancreatic cancer are increasing,
and since the last two-three years we get one-two cases every
month," P.K. Julka, clinical oncologist, All India Institute of
Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.
Julka says that most of the cases that come to them are in an
advanced stage and chances of survival are nil. It is generally
seen in old people.
Standard treatment for pancreatic cancer includes surgery,
chemotherapy, radiation and, most recently, targeted anticancer
drugs that may slightly extend patients' lives.
"Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed at a later stage in 89-90 percent
cases and in such cases we provide chemotherapy, targeted therapy
and few other procedures. But patient can survive only 18-24
months," said Julka.
Although there are no specific studies about causes of pancreatic
cancer, doctors blame it on sedentary lifestyle, smoking and high
alcohol intake. People suffering from diabetes and chronic
pancreatic inflammation are also at risk.
There is also a lack of oncologists specialised in treating
pancreatic cancer in India and the cost of treatment is very high.
According to Delhi Cancer registry, Mizoram in India has the
highest prevalence of pancreatic cancer. "In Aizawl, Mizoram,
prevalence rate is 2.3 per 100,000 people per year against the
global rate of 1 per 100,000 people per year. Majority of cases in
Mizoram are reported in women," he said.
Aggarwal, who is also a member of Pancreatic Cancer India, a group
working to spread awareness about the less-known disease, says
that this year's Nobel Prize winner in medicine Ralph Steinman
died of pancreatic cancer in September this year.