Pancreatic Cancer

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-02-19 (EDT)

Pancreatic cancer describes tumors of the endocrine and exocrine pancreas. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common type. Neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer is less common and has a better prognosis. 44,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States each year, and incidence of the disease is increasing. [1]

Pancreatic Cancer
Causes Environmental Toxins, Smoking, Aging.
See Also Women's Health, Oncology
Books Books on Women's Health, Books on Oncology
Articles Articles on Women's Health, Articles on Oncology (Cancer)
Article High Fructose Corn Syrup and Pancreatic Cancer, NMJ, [1], 2012 October

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. With pancreatic cancer, the causes are variable and include lifestyle and environmental factors. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to pancreatic cancer.


Article Data Clearly Links Soda Consumption to Pancreatic Cancer ,2010 March Natural Medicine [2]
  • It is estimated that 20% are caused by diet.[2]
  • Dietary imbalance, such as a diet high in processed red meat, is linked to pancreatic cancer. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and other plants are protective against pancreatic cancer.[3], [4]


  • Exposure to cadmium and arsenic are associated with increased risk of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. [5]
  • Tobacco is a significant source of cadmium exposure.


  • It is estimated that 20-25% of pancreatic cancers are caused by smoking.[2]


  • Aging
  • Aging increases the risk for pancreatic cancer. The majority of cases occur after age 60, and cases before age 40 are rare.[6]


  • It is estimated that only 5-10% of pancreatic cancers are hereditary. [2]
  • Genetic syndromes associated with familial pancreatic cancer include BRCA2 mutation, Lynch syndrome, and the PALB2 gene. Only 5-10% of people with pancreatic cancer have a family history of the disease .[7]
  • Some pancreas cancers have the Kras receptor and gene activated. Kras drives tumor growth and is a potential target for therapy. [8]

Related Conditions

The following conditions are associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer:

Diagnostic Testing


Whenever the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are present it is beneficial to do a full physical exam and to explore the following:

  • Imaging Studies may include an abdominal CT, PET and endoscopic procedures such as endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) or ERCP may be used to diagnose or stage a pancreatic tumor. Staging may include assessment of whether the tumor is fully removable by surgery.
  • Detection of pancreatic cancer is confirmed histologically by biopsy. Following biopsy, a surgeon may order angiography to evaluate whether the tumor can be fully surgically removed.


  • Pancreatic cancers are characterized by their stage, tissue subtype, and molecular markers. Pancreatic cancers are typically diagnosed at a late stage.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include:[10]

Typically the pain is located in the center of the upper abdomen and radiates to the back, is unrelenting, is present even at night, and is not improved by changes in diet or body position.

Naturopathic Treatment Strategy

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body. A treatment strategy is the most effective when it addresses the underlying causal factors and when it follows the naturopathic therapeutic order. The treatment strategy for pancreatic cancer is first prevention, followed by treatments to address the cancer directly or to support conventional treatments and to improve overall quality of life.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Cancer Specific Treatments

Article Primary Homeopathic Treatment of Cancers of the Pancreas, Stomach, Gallbladder, and Liver , 2011 April Natural Medicine [3]
Article The Use of Curcumin with Gemcitabine in Patients With Advanced Pancreatic Cancer, 2010 November Natural Medicine [4]

Follow the general guidelines for cancer specific treatments. Additional treatments that are specific to pancreatic cancer include:

  • Supplementation

Supportive Care

Article Thymoquinone Augments Chemotherapy Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer , 2010 January Natural Medicine [5]

Follow the general guidelines for supportive care especially when conventional treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy are chosen.

  • Pancreatic cancer tends to respond to chemotherapy and radiation and then recur. Natural therapies to increase chemotherapy sensitivity, target the tumor, and prevent recurrence are particularly indicated.
  • If surgical removal of the tumor is indicated, your naturopathic doctor can also help you to prepare for and recover from surgery. This can include supporting wound healing, reducing development of post surgical adhesions, supporting pain control, and removing supplements, foods, or medications that can interfere with anesthesia or blood clotting. After the surgery, your naturopathic doctor can support you with a nutritional plan to address short gut syndrome and support digestion. If the spleen is going to be removed, talk with your doctor about vaccines and immune support measures that may be indicated. People without a spleen are less able to eliminate encapsulated bacteria. These bacteria can cause preventable and life-threatening infections such as pneumonia and meningitis.[11]

Prevent Recurrence

Supportive care involves managing the symptoms of a cancer to improve quality of life. The supportive care page discusses natural therapies to address symptoms of pancreatic cancer such as pain, constipation, depression, bowel obstruction, maldigestion and pancreatic insufficiency, ascites, and short gut syndrome.


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2
  8. “The Biology of Cancer” from: Clinical Oncology : A Multi- Disciplinary Approach, 8th edition by Rubin (ed.)