Ampullary Cancer

What is Ampullary Cancer?

Ampullary cancer occurs in the Ampulla Vater, which is a projection that moves into the duodenum of the intestines. All biliary and pancreatic secretions go into the duodenum via the Ampulla Vater.

When the Ampulla Vater is blocked by a malignant tumor, there is an obstruction of the drainage of the biliary and pancreatic secretions, and that leads to jaundice. Also, because bile is unable to drain into the intestines, it ends up accumulating in the bloodstream.

This cancer, which is uncommon, is often diagnosed with the help of laboratory tests, such as a blood test, CA 19-9 tumor marker test, electrolyte panel, liver function tests, and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test. Ultrasounds and CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis are also helpful.

What are the Symptoms of Ampullary Cancer?

Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the whites of the eyes and the skin, is the most noticeable sign of ampullary cancer.

Symptoms include

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Back pain
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Pancreatitis
  • Greasy and pale stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Pruritus
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain

A palpable and distended gallbladder, referred to as Courvoisier’s gallbladder, can also be apparent in patients with jaundice who are also suffering from ampullary cancer.

Ampullary Cancer Causes

Ampullary cancer is a very rare cancer. The common bile duct and the pancreatic duct meet and form a Y, and the part of the Y that enters the small intestine is called the ampulla of Vater. It is here that ampullary cancer is found. The cancerous growth blocks the bile from going into the small intestine or duodenum. This causes jaundice, which is how the condition initially presents itself.

The medical community isn’t quite sure what causes the cancer, but it is thought that genetic factors may be part of it. Those with familial adenomatous polyposis tend to inherit ampullary cancer. Familial adenomatous polyposis is basically colon cancer, and this begins as benign polyps in the colon. Additionally, genetic mutations to the growth factor receptor on the DNA strands are thought to contribute to the growth of ampullary cancer. Research has also found that smoking and diabetes are contributing risk factors for the development of this particular growth.

How is Ampullary Cancer Treated?

Ampullary cancer can be treated with a surgical treatment that is known as a Whipple procedure, or pancreaticoduodenal resection. During the procedure, surgeons will remove the tumor in the area of the Ampulla Vater that is affected, as well as areas surrounding it.

If the cancer is only found in the duodenal mucosa and it has not invaded the nearby pancreas, prognosis is good.

Ampullary Cancer Prevention

Ampullary cancer is so rare that less than one percent of the population contracts it. The medical community are also unsure how to prevent it, as obviously the factors that contribute to it include things like age, gender, genetics, and family background that can’t be changed. However, there are a few steps that can prevent some of the other causes of the cancer. It is thought that diabetics may be at a higher risk of being diagnosed with ampullary cancer. It’s therefore very important that individuals with diabetes maintain a healthy weight.

If a patient needs to lose weight, then they have to lose it. A healthy diet and exercise are great ways to control or avoid altogether a myriad of ills, not excluding this cancer, so watching ones diet especially with a condition like diabetes is not to be underestimated. If the patient smokes, then quitting as soon as possible is of the utmost importance too, as well as cutting down on other unhealthy habits such as consuming alcohol. For doctors of those at risk of inheriting ampullary cancer, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the pancreatic and intestinal areas for any abnormalities, so they can be diagnosed whilst there is time to begin treating the condition.