Ampullary Cancer Definition
Ampullary cancer is a rare cancer affecting the digestive system. The affected area where the disease forms is called the ampulla of Vater, which is located where the pancreatic duct and bile duct join and empty into the small intestine.
The location of the cancer makes nearby body parts comprising the digestive system susceptible to its effects. This includes the small intestine, liver, and pancreas.
To better understand ampullary cancer, it’s helpful to ascertain the role of the ampulla of Vater. This important structure is located at the major duodenal papilla. It’s location at the second section of the duodenum marks the anatomical transition from the foregut to the midgut.
The role of the ampulla of Vater is to regulate the flow of pancreatic juice and bile through an assortment of smooth muscle sphincters in the pancreatic duct, bile duct, and Oddi. The sphincter of Oddi controls secretion of pancreatic juices and bile into the duodenum.
What this means is that ampullary cancer can block the bile duct, preventing bile from reaching the intestines. This causes a buildup of bilirubin, which leads to jaundice. In fact, almost every patient suffering from ampullary cancer will exhibit symptoms of jaundice, making it somewhat easier to detect at an early stage.
Ampullary Cancer Stages
Staging for ampullary cancer is similar to pancreatic cancer with a few minor differences. The purpose of staging is to ascertain the nature of the cancer and whether it has spread. Doctors then use this information to recommend treatment and offer patients a prognosis.
In it’s most basic form, ampullary cancer is staged as follows:
• Stage 0 – the ampulla of Vater shows no signs of cancer
• Stage 1 – the cancer is only located in the inner layer of the small intestine, and not in the sphincter of Oddi
• Stage 2 – the cancer has spread to the middle layer of the small intestine and maybe into the sphincter of Oddi
• Stage 3 – the cancer has spread to the outer wall/layer of the small intestine
• Stage 4 – the cancer has spread to other organs (like the pancreas) or to lymph nodes
Ampullary cancer is also graded in an effort to describe what the tumor looks like under a microscope. Ampullary cancer will receive a grade of 1,2,3, or 4. Cancers with lower numeric grades are very similar to normal cells, which means they grow slowly and are less likely to spread. Cancer cells with a higher numeric value look abnormal and act the same way. They are also more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
The goal with ampullary cancer grading is to assess how quickly it might grow. For the purpose of this page, it is also a good idea to review how pancreatic cancer is staged.
Staging pancreatic cancer is the process of determining the location and size of the cancer, and whether it’s spread to local or distant sites within the body. Staging helps doctors identify treatment protocols that have the best chance of being effective. They also help doctors offer patients a prognosis for recovery.
To ascertain a patient’s pancreatic cancer stage, doctors use various diagnostic tests, so the final results may take some time to compile. Every form of cancer has its own staging descriptions, so it’s important to review the staging definitions unique to pancreatic cancer. While the TMN staging system is used for many cancers, it is notamp often used for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer staging is divided into four separate categories, the criteria being whether is can be removed through surgical means or if and where it may have spread. These four staging classifications for pancreatic cancer are broken down as follows.
Resectable pancreatic cancer can be removed surgically. The surgery is usually performed immediately following diagnosis. Surgery may be localized in the pancreas if the cancer has not spread, or it may include areas outside of the pancreas as long as it hasn’t grown into important veins or arteries. Around 15% of patients are diagnosed with resectable cancer. Sometimes other treatments are performed before the surgery.
Borderline resectable pancreatic cancer describes a tumor that may be impossible or difficult to remove surgically upon initial diagnosis. In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is used to shrink the tumor so that surgery can be performed. The goal is to perform a surgery with “negative margins,” which means no visible cancer cells are left in the body after the surgery is completed.
Locally advanced pancreatic cancer describes a stage where cancer is still localized to the pancreatic region but surgery is not possible because it’s spread into nearby organs, veins, and/or arteries. This means that surgery could damage those surrounding structures, which is too high of a risk to the patient. For a cancer to be in the locally advanced stage it must not have spread to distant areas in the patient’s body. Around 40% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are staged as locally advanced.
Metastatic pancreatic cancer is a staging that describes a situations where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body like the lungs or liver, or distant areas in the patient’s abdomen. Around 45% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with this advanced stage.
While not used for pancreatic cancer in most cases, the TMN staging system is used for many other forms of cancer. If you would like detailed information on this type of staging please review one of our other cancer pages.
Obviously, there is a lot to consider with ampullary cancer. To learn more about staging consult your doctor, and make sure you fully understand the nature of your cancer.
Ampullary Cancer Symptoms (signs of Ampullary cancer)
Unlike many other forms of cancer, there are clear-cut symptoms of ampullary cancer that makes it often possible to catch at an early stage. The telltale symptom of ampullary cancer is jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
For ampullary cancer cases, jaundice is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the body due to a blockage in the bile duct as the tumor grows. Nearly every patent with ampullary cancer has jaundice, whereas only half of patients with pancreatic cancer have this condition. Because this symptom is so unique to ampullary cancer, it’s often possible to detect the disease at an early stage.
It is also estimated that approximately a third of patients suffering from ampullary cancer also have gastrointestinal bleeding. This may lead to anemia. While gastrointestinal bleeding associated with Ampullary cancer is usually mild, sometimes patients experience severe bleeding. The symptoms of severe bleeding include black stools and blood in the stool.
Other symptoms associated with the disease include vomiting, nausea, fever, and weight loss.
Ampullary cancer sometimes develops in a manner very similar to that of colon cancer. It typically starts its life as a adenoma polyp that eventually becomes cancer. To find the cancer, doctors sometimes use an ultrasound to examine the bile duct, although a CT scan is more effective. For other methods used to detect ampullary cancer after a patient exhibits symptoms, please see the appropriate sections below.
Ampullary Cancer Statistics
Ampullary cancer is rare. In fact, this disease accounts for only 0.2% of all gastrointestinal cancers. Curative surgery to treat ampullary cancer is possible in about half of patients. However, the majority eventually succumb to a recurrence of the disease. Because of the disease’s rarity, hard statistics related to gender, ethnicity, and age are simply not available. This also applies to statistics regarding treatment, because the limited sample size leads to skewed results due to selection bias or unreliable variables.
The 5 year survival rate for ampullary cancer is 75%, when surgery can be performed to remove the cancer in its earliest stages. This means that 75% of patients who receive this surgery, also called the Whipple procedure, will survive for at least 5 years from the time they are diagnosed. It should be noted that surgery on tumors that have progressed to later stages reduce the 5 year survival rate to 20%.
Causes of Ampullary Cancer
Once again, the rarity of ampullary cancer makes the reasons for acquiring it impossible to ascertain. Risk prevention is often the best way to prevent the onset of cancer, but even risk factors for this disease are difficult to assess.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to maintain good health, appropriate weight, and abstain from behaviors that can increase the risk of developing cancer, like smoking. Still, it is simply unknown whether any risk prevention measures have any effect on a person’s chances of developing ampullary cancer.
It’s possible that risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer also play a role in ampullary cancer, since the two are somewhat related. However, there is no current evidence to prove this assertion. Scientists do not know what causes pancreatic cancer either, but they have identified various risk factors associated with the onset of the disease.
Some risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer are related to genetics, and the DNA that resides in the cells that make up the pancreas. DNA is a chemical within the cells that carries genes, and these genes control how these cells function. Some genes help cells stay alive, grow, and divide. Others maintain a certain order to cell division, repair mistakes in the DNA, or cause cells to die when the time is appropriate.
Changes to DNA are called mutations. Mutations may cause genes to do the opposite of what they’re intended to do. Some mutations affecting genes in the pancreas may be inherited. Others may be acquired. While there is nothing that can be done to control inherited gene mutations, there are often methods of reducing the risk of developing acquired gene mutations.
One example of a preventable gene mutation would be those caused by smoking tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars. But even though even though it is known that smoking plays a key role in gene mutation, it is now known exactly why these mutations take place in some people and not others. It’s possible for genes to randomly mutate without any external cause.
Ampullary Cancer Screening and Prevention
Again, the rarity of ampullary cancer makes recommendations regarding prevention impossible. Screening is the process of testing a patient at routine intervals in an effort to find cancer in its earliest stages. However, it’s impossible to screen for ampullary cancer because it is so rare.
The onset of jaundice is often the impetus for a doctor to prescribe tests to ascertain whether a patient has developed the disease. It stands to reason that reducing risk factors for pancreatic cancer may also have an effect on ampullary cancer’s onset. These include quitting smoking tobacco, abstaining from alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle.
Ampullary Cancer Treatments
The first course of action in cases involving ampullary cancer is to remove the tumor via surgery. This operation is called the Whipple procedure, and it removes the tumor and a section of the ampulla of Vater and a wide margin of the surrounding area. Other areas that may be included in the surgery include the bile duct, parts of the stomach, the head of the pancreas, duodenum, and gallbladder.
While there are some instances when this surgery is performed with endoscopic instruments, it is usually done by cutting open the belly. Obviously, this opening up a patient is far more invasive than using endoscopic instruments, but the 5 year survival rate after receiving the Whipple procedure is as high as 75%, so this is the preferred method of treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used after surgery in an effort to kill any remaining cancer cells, but doctors disagree on their effectiveness.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill the cancer. They may be taken orally or injected into the bloodstream, which means the drugs can attack cancer cells all over the body. The downside of chemotherapy is that normal, healthy cells are also attacked by the drugs, which causes a host of nasty side effects.
Radiation uses high-energy, focused radiation to kill cancer cells in a specific area. This treatment is rarely used for ampullary cancer treatment, so it would be a good idea to ask your doctor what the reasoning is behind this treatment if it’s recommended. There are a number of side effects associated with radiation therapy, some of which can be quite unpleasant.
In cases where surgery isn’t possible, perhaps because the health of the patient won’t allow it, doctors may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy as adjuvant treatment. However, this has not been identified as a way to cure this form of cancer.
Make no mistake about it, ampullary cancer is a life-threatening disease that requires skilled care from a surgeon familiar with this type of cancer, if this is the preferred treatment method. The fact that the cancer is extremely rare is little consolation to the people diagnosed with disease, and their families.
Palliative treatment for ampullary cancer
For patients with advanced cancer, palliative treatment are sometimes prescribed to help control or reduce symptoms and side effects associated with the disease. One example of a palliative treatment for ampullary cancer would be a procedure to relieve bile duct blockage. Not only would this ease some of the patient’s pain, but would also prevent bowel blockage and jaundice.
The procedure to relieve a bile duct blockage would be done by placing a tube in the affected area, or even performing a bowel bypass operation if the patient’s health warranted surgery. A needle may also be used to remove fluid from the abdomen or pain medicines may be prescribed to the patient.
Alternative Treatments Used for Ampullary Cancer
Treatments that fall outside of the sphere of mainstream medicine are labeled as “alternative.” Alternative treatments may be used in lieu of mainstream treatment or in a supporting role. Before selecting any treatment for ampullary cancer, you should thoroughly explore your options and make an educated choice.
Some forms of alternative treatment used for ampullary cancer focus on reinforcing and strengthening immune system. Some doctors claim that the body’s natural defenses are the most effective defense against colorectal cancer. A weakened immune system will have a harder time fighting off cancer within a person’s body. Additionally, the cancer itself may further weaken the immune system. If treatment protocols like chemotherapy and radiation therapy fail to rid the body of cancer, the immune system is further weakened. This may make subsequent treatments dangerous, or even lethal.
Diet plays a key role in developing and maintaining healthy immune system. Studies are being conducted to ascertain whether diet also plays a role in the prevention of various cancers. Iron, folate, zinc, and certain other vitamins like B6 are believed by many to help bolster the immune system. Regardless of whether a person has cancer or not, these vitamins should be a part of any healthy diet.
As with mainstream medicine, alternative treatments used for ampullary cancer often focus on prevention. Some claim that promoting a “clean” lifestyle of eating healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, can help fight colon cancer naturally. The idea is that quality foods that have sustained humanity for millennia are far better at bolstering the immune system than modern processed foods. If the food a person eats is contaminated with toxins, hormones, pesticides, and chemicals, it stands to reason that it may directly affect their health.
Alternative, preventative diets often focus on the following:
1. Eating less red meat
2. Eating fewer processed foods
3. Eating foods rich in antioxidants
4. Using olive oil
5. Eating selenium-rich foods
6. Eat food rich in Omega 3 oils
7. Eating garlic and certain other spices
8. Eating food with vitamins that naturally fight cancer
One of the primary ways that alternative treatments for ampullary cancer differ from that of orthodox medicine is by treating the patient instead of the disease. Every person with ampullary cancer has their own unique cancer cells living in their body. Orthodox medicine’s treatment protocols attempt to treat the disease based on the cancer’s stage, using a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. This is why treatments work on some patients and not others.
Some alternative treatments utilize comprehensive testing in an effort to discern the best way to treat that particular cancer. A series of tests is performed on the patient’s unique cancer is performed in an effort to determine the best method of treatment.
The focus of these treatments is to restore the body’s natural ability to fight cancer cells. Since cancer cells develop in every human, the idea is that reinforcing the body’s immune system can entirely eradicate cancer from the body before it has a chance to become tumorous.
Because this is not a one-size-fits-all approach to colon cancer treatment, significant time is spent with each individual patient to identify the most effective way to deal with their cancer. Avoiding treatment protocols like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy prevents the immune system from becoming further compromised, although any or all of these treatments may prove to be the “best” option.
Every ampullary cancer patient has the right to select their own treatment protocols, so it makes sense to be fully informed about traditional and alternative treatments before making any final decisions. Some patients may choose one over the other, and others may even decide to pursue both. Some patients will use alternative treatments in a supporting role to help alleviated symptoms or side effects of other treatments.
Financial considerations often come into play for patients seeking treatment for ampullary cancer. This is yet another reason why a patient may choose alternative treatment over more orthodox protocols. Costs associated with mainstream cancer treatments are exorbitant, and ampullary cancer is no exception. Even patients with quality health insurance are often driven to declare bankruptcy when faced with medical bills for colon cancer treatments, which adds another layer to the stress and emotional trauma they and their family are going through.
Some doctors specializing in alternative cancer treatments are often willing to develop a treatment plan that takes finances into consideration. Some alternative cancer doctors claim that they can get the same testing done for a fraction of what it costs a mainstream doctor.
Treatment is a highly personal choice, and it should be weighed carefully. Talk to your doctors. Talk to your loved ones. Talk to other people that have survived cancer or are currently suffering from the disease. At first, all of the information you receive may seem overwhelming, but after a time you will have a firm grasp on the facts, and can come to a reasonable conclusion regarding treatment.
Vitamins and Supplements Used in the Treatment of Ampullary Cancer
Alternative treatments for colon cancer often focus on reinforcing the immune system through a variety of methods. Some doctors utilize treatment protocols that incorporate vitamins supplements into the patient’s diet to help boot the immune system’s natural ability to fight cancer cells. Some of the top vitamins used to help reinforce the immune system include:
• Vitamin C – Vitamin C has long been used to help the immune system fight off cold and flu viruses, but it also helps to regenerate and repair tissues in the body. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and ascorbic acid that helps the body support healthy tissue while promoting healing.
• Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is necessary for many metabolic processes, and it supports the healthy functioning of the adrenal gland. It also makes antibodies, which are needed in order for the body to fight disease.
• Vitamin E – This powerful antioxidant helps the body naturally fight off infection.
• Vitamin D – Vitamin D helps the body in numerous ways by promoting immune function and modulating cell growth while reducing inflammation. Also called the “sunshine vitamin” since the body gets most of the vitamin from the sun, it also helps the body absorb calcium. For people living in northern climates, routine vitamin D testing should be conducted on a routine basis. It’s difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone, and deficiencies have been linked to some forms of cancer and numerous other preventable health issues.
• Vitamin A – Vitamin A creates a barrier against infections in the body, and may also aid immune system function, according to some studies.
• Iron – Oxygen is carried to cells via the bloodstream with the help of iron, so it’s important to get enough to sustain this function.
• Folate – Studies show that a lack of folate in the body can make a person more susceptible to cancer. Folate is important in the development of red blood cells and works in tandem with vitamin B6.
• Selenium – The body sometimes overacts in its response to aggressive forms of cancer, but selenium can slow that reaction.
• Zinc – Zinc is capable of slowing immune system response, and can also help control inflammation, which is important in the treatment of many cancers.
Natural Remedies that May Help Ampullary Cancer
There are countless natural remedies that may help with symptoms associated with ampullary cancer and its treatment. Many of these remedies can easily be found on the internet. Since ampullary cancer affects the digestive tract, it makes sense to seek out natural remedies that can help bolster the body’s natural defenses and immune system, or alleviate pain associated with the disease.
What follows is a list of some of the more common natural remedies that may help with ampullary cancer. At the very least, a healthy diet that incorporates these natural remedies will support better overall health for a happier life.
• Ginseng – There are a number of therapeutic uses for ginseng, but its high concentration of antioxidants may inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. Some studies indicate it may even kill cancerous cells.
• Green Tea – Because green tea decreases the presence of free radicals in the body, it may lower the risk of cancer. Green tea may even prevent cancer from spreading.
• Exercise – There are countless benefits to routine exercise, not the least of which is simply feeling better and preventing obesity. Exercise also stimulates the immune system by improving blood flow and boosting the metabolism. By further reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, the risk of developing ampullary cancer may also be reduced.
• Salmon – Not only is salmon a great tasting delight, it’s also jam packed with healthy Omega-3 oils. These are antioxidants that can reduce the risk of cancer and other health problems that may contribute to cancer, including obesity. Mackerel and sardines are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, so they can be a regular part of anyone’s diet regardless of whether they live in a warm or cold climate. Remember to eat wild salmon to get the full benefit of this dietary choice, because farmed salmon lacks the same nutritional properties.
• Flaxseed Oil – This is yet another good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, and we already know how important those are. Flaxseed oil can help reduce inflammation, which may help prevent the spread of cancer.
• Blueberries – One of the best antioxidants available, blueberries have a positive effect on the immune system and can reduce cellular mutation. They may also eliminate free radicals, not to mention the fact they taste really good.
• Spinach – This nutrient-rich leafy green is packed with vitamins and has a high content of fiber. This makes spinach a popular natural remedy that may help prevent cancer. Maintaining regular bowel movements is far easier when consuming enough fiber. This is important for people who may be at risk for cancer of the digestive tract like ampullary cancer. Fiber also prevents symptoms of certain treatments, like hemorrhoids and constipation.
• Quitting Smoking – Smoking causes all sorts of health problems, and it’s recognized as a leading cause of many forms of cancer. Smoking has been proven to increase the speed at which polyps develop, which is often how ampullary cancer forms. Much of the damage caused by smoking can be reversed simply by quitting the habit.
• Olive Oil – There are some studies that indicate olive oil is an effective way to prevent cancer from forming in the body. It also increases nutrient uptake in the intestines, which which maximizes the benefits of vitamins and supplements.
• Turmeric – The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is full of antioxidants that bolster the immune system.
Remember that these natural remedies are no substitute for regular exams by a doctor. If you show any signs of jaundice, you should seek immediate medical attention. While rare, ampullary cancer is a deadly disease that affects people every year all over America.
Home remedies should never be used as a replacement for cancer treatment. However, they can be used to promote a healthy lifestyle with a focus on prevention and a healthy immune system. By receiving regular checkups, and visiting a doctor whenever you notice symptoms of jaundice, you run the best chance of fighting this deadly disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with ampullary cancer, schedule a free consultation at the Causenta Cancer Treatment Center today, and find out how we can help.
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