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The pancreas is a gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine. It produces the juices that help break down food and the hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer usually begins in the cells that produce the juices. Some risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include

  • Smoking
  • Long-term diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Certain hereditary disorders

Pancreatic cancer is hard to catch early. It doesn't cause symptoms right away. When you do get symptoms, they are often vague or you may not notice them. They include yellowing of the skin and eyes, pain in the abdomen and back, weight loss and fatigue. Also, because the pancreas is hidden behind other organs, health care providers cannot see or feel the tumors during routine exams. Doctors use a physical exam, blood tests, imaging tests, and a biopsy to diagnose it.

Because it is often found late and it spreads quickly, pancreatic cancer can be hard to treat. Possible treatments include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

NIH: National Cancer Institute

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

The following features are indicative of Pancreatic Cancer:
  • upper abdomen pain
  • loss of appetite
  • unintended weight loss
  • depression
  • new-onset diabetes
  • blood clots
  • fatigue
  • yellowing of skin and the whites of eyes
  • dark urine and clay-colored stools
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
It is possible that Pancreatic Cancer shows no physical symptoms and still be present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

The following are the most common causes of Pancreatic Cancer:
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • long-term inflammation of the pancreas

Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Pancreatic Cancer:
  • diabetes
  • pancreatitis
  • family history of genetic syndromes
  • family history of pancreatic cancer
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • older age
  • alcohol consumption

Prevention of Pancreatic Cancer

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Pancreatic Cancer. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • quit smoking
  • having diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • exercise regularly

Occurrence of Pancreatic Cancer

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Pancreatic Cancer cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Not common between 50K - 500K cases

Common Age Group

Pancreatic Cancer most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged > 40 years

Common Gender

Pancreatic Cancer can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Pancreatic Cancer:
  • Imaging tests: To create pictures of internal organs
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): To make images of pancreas from inside of abdomen
  • Biopsy: For examination under a microscope
  • Blood test: To test blood for specific proteins (tumor markers) shed by pancreatic cancer cells

Doctor for Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer:
  • Oncologist

Complications of Pancreatic Cancer if untreated

Yes, Pancreatic Cancer causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Pancreatic Cancer is left untreated:
  • jaundice
  • weight loss
  • pain
  • bowel obstruction

Procedures for Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

The following procedures are used to treat Pancreatic Cancer:
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy: To remove tumor in the pancreatic head
  • Distal pancreatectomy: To remove the left side (body and tail) of the pancreas
  • Total pancreatectomy: To remove the entire pancreas
  • Surgery: To remove tumors affecting nearby blood vessels
  • Chemotherapy: To help kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy: To treat pancreatic cancer

Self-care for Pancreatic Cancer

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Pancreatic Cancer:
  • Quit smoking: Helps relieving symptoms
  • Take healthy diet: Helps reducing risk of cancer
  • Maintain a healthy weight: To reduce cancer risk

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Pancreatic Cancer:
  • Exercise regularly: Helps to cope up with distress
  • Do meditation: Helps reducing distress
  • Listen to music: Helps to cope up with distress
  • Do relaxation exercises: Helps reducing distress

Patient Support for Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

The following actions may help Pancreatic Cancer patients:
  • Hospice care system: Provides comfort and support to terminally ill people and their loved ones
  • Connect with other cancer survivors: Makes patient feel comfortable
  • Talk with a counselor: Helps coping with the disease
  • Education: Helps patient learn enough about cancer

Related Topics

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Pancreatic Cancer.

Related Topics

Pancreatic Diseases

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