Pancreatic cancer

Index

  1. What is pancreatic cancer?
  2. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer
  3. Causes of pancreatic cancer
  4. Prevention of pancreatic cancer
  5. Treatment for pancreatic cancer
  6. What specialist treats pancreatic cancer?

What is pancreatic cancer?

The pancreas is a large gland located in the abdomen that produces enzymes that aid in the process of digestion. Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the pancreas and multiply uncontrollably. Because these cells do not function normally, as they multiply they hinder vital functions and eventually lead to death if left untreated.

Cancer can develop in different parts of the pancreas:

  • Ductal adenocarcinoma develops in the lining of the pancreatic ducts (which transport enzymes produced to the digestive system). About 95% of pancreatic cancer cases are ductal adenocarcinomas.
  • Ampullary cancer forms in the ampulla of Vater. This is where the pancreatic duct joins the bile duct before entering the small intestine.
  • Cystic tumors: although the pancreas can develop benign cysts (fluid-filled sacs) it sometimes produces cancerous tumors.
  • Neuroendocrine tumors form in the endocrine cells, which produce hormones such as insulin.
  • Acinar cell carcinomas develop in the cells that synthesize pancreatic juice (the digestive enzyme mixture).
  • Lymphoma: cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which runs throughout the body, including the pancreas.

Because these cells do not function normally,
as they multiply, they hinder vital functions.

See also  Lymphatic Drainage

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

In its early stages, pancreatic cancer may not show any symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, indigestion and weight loss may manifest as the cancer develops and grows. Unfortunately, these symptoms are common and may indicate other conditions. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Jaundice (yellow, itchy skin and eyes).
  • Change in bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Diabetes (especially if newly developed or diagnosed)

What are the causes of pancreatic cancer?

The causes of pancreatic cancer are unknown, but some risk factors have been identified, such as age (patients are usually between 50 and 80 years old), smoking and having a history of certain conditions (e.g. diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, stomach ulcer and H. pylori infection). Genetic factors are thought to play a role in some cases, as in approximately 1 in 10 cases, one or both of the patient’s parents have also had pancreatic cancer.

Can pancreatic cancer be prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer. Some risk factors, such as age, gender, race, and family history cannot be controlled. However, there are steps you can take to try to reduce your risk:

  • Quit smoking (smoking is the most important risk factor).
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Regular physical activity.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Limiting exposure to certain chemicals at work.

What is the treatment for pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat because it is rarely detected before the tumor has become large enough. Treatment depends on the type, location and size of the tumor, as well as the patient’s age and general health. The best option is to completely remove the tumor, but in cases where this is not possible, a different treatment is recommended to subdue the cancer, prevent further growth and minimize the damage it causes to the body.

See also  Palpitations

The three main treatments that can be used individually or at the same time are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

Recovering from surgery on the pancreas can be a long and painful process, the bowel will stop working for a while, which means that the patient will not be able to eat or drink right away, and may be referred to a dietician during the recovery process.

What specialist treats pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer can be treated by a General Surgeon or a specialist in Medical Oncology.