Pancreatic Cancer

An Overview

Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas an organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach. The pancreas plays an essential role in digestion by producing enzymes that the body needs to digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Your pancreas releases enzymes that aid digestion and produces hormones that help manage your blood sugar. Pancreatic cancer is slightly more common in men than in women, usually occurring after age 45.

The pancreas also produces two important hormones: glucagon and insulin. These hormones are responsible for controlling glucose (sugar) metabolism. Insulin helps cells metabolize glucose to make energy and glucagon helps raise glucose levels when they are too low. Pancreatic cancer is aggressive with few symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea and jaundice. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Due to the location of the pancreas, pancreatic cancer may be difficult to detect and is often diagnosed in more advanced stages of the disease.

Types of Pancreatic cancer

The most common type of cancer that forms in the pancreas begins in the cells that line the ducts that carry digestive enzymes out of the pancreas (pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma).

  • Acute pancreatitis is a main cause of hospital admissions for gastrointestinal issues.
  • Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that comes back consistently or occurs over a long period of time.
  • Severe cases of acute pancreatitis can develop into necrotizing pancreatitis, which refers to the death of cells due to disease.
  • Some integrative and alternative medicine approaches may help with signs and symptoms you experience due to your cancer or cancer treatments.

The part that makes digestive substances (exocrine) or the part that makes insulin and other hormones (endocrine).

Symptoms for Pancreatic Cancer

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer often don’t occur until the disease is advanced. Pancreatic cancer often goes undetected until it’s advanced and difficult to treat. In the vast majority of cases, symptoms only develop after pancreatic cancer has grown and begun to spread. They may include:

  • Abdominal pain that radiates to your back.
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss.
  • Some people with pancreatic cancer have a sense of early fullness with meals (satiety) or an uncomfortable swelling in the abdomen.
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
  • Light-colored stools.
  • Depression.
  • Nausea.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Vomiting.
  • New diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that’s becoming more difficult to control.
  • Blood clots.
  • Fatigue.

Keep in mind that having any or all of these symptoms doesn’t mean a person has pancreatic cancer.

Some other rare symptoms

  • Insulinomas (excess  insulin):  sweating, anxiety, lightheadedness, and fainting  from  low blood sugar.
  • Glucagonomas (excess glucagon): diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, weight loss.
  • Gastrinomas : abdominal pain,  stomach ulcers that can bleed, reflux, weight loss.

Causes of pancreatic cancer

The cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. This type of cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow within the pancreas and form tumors.

  • Normally healthy cells grow and die in moderate numbers. In the case of cancer, there is an increased amount of abnormal cell production and these cells eventually take over the healthy cells.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Smoking.
  • being overweight.
  • Diabetes.
  • Inherited Genetic syndrome.
  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
  • Family history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk, including a BRCA2 gene mutation, Lynch syndrome and familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome.
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer.
  • Heavy exposure at work to certain chemicals used in the dry cleaning and metal working industries may raise a person’s risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Older age, as most people are diagnosed after age 65.


They may examine your tummy (abdomen) for a lump and to see whether your liver is enlarged.

They’ll also check your skin and eyes for signs of jaundice and may request a urine sample and blood test.

  • Imaging tests that create pictures of your internal organs. These tests help your doctors visualize your internal organs, including the pancreas.
  • A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope. Most often the tissue is collected duringEUS by passing special tools through the endoscope.
  • Your doctor may test your blood for specific proteins (tumor markers) shed by pancreatic cancer cells. One tumor marker test used in pancreatic cancer is called CA19-9.
  • The lowest stages indicate that the cancer is confined to the pancreas. By stage IV, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
  • The cancer staging system continues to evolve and is becoming more complex as doctors improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.


The best treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on how far it has spread, or its stage. The stages of pancreatic cancer are easy to understand. Common treatment approaches. Sometimes, the best option for treating pancreatic cancer might include more than one type of treatment.

Operations used in people with pancreatic cancer include:

  • Surgery for tumors in the pancreatic head.
  • Determining pancreatic cancer stage is often tricky. Imaging tests like CT scans and ultrasound provide some information, but knowing exactly how far pancreatic cancer has spread usually requires surgery.
  • An end luminal ultrasonography (EUS) endoscopy – a type of endoscopy which allows close-up ultrasound pictures to be taken of your pancreas.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to help kill cancer cells. These drugs can be injected into a vein or taken orally. Chemotherapy uses drugs to help kill cancer.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as those made from X-rays and protons, to destroy cancer cells.
  • Clinical trials are studies to test new treatments, such as systemic therapy, and new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Palliative care is not the same as hospice care or end-of-life care. Palliative care is provided by teams of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specially trained professionals.

 Hope this Symptoms and cure article will be helpful to all. Do not forget to share your valuable suggestions if any.





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