About Pancreatic cancer
The pancreas is an important part of the digestive system. It is a gland located at the back of your abdomen. The pancreas has multiple significant functions including the production of certain juices called enzymes. Pancreatic enzymes break down and regulate sugars, fats, and starches. The pancreatic gland also secretes hormones to assist digestion.
Pancreatic cancer occurs in the healthy tissues of the pancreatic gland. It develops when healthy cells in the pancreas and the ones lining it begin to spread abnormally causing the growth of a tumour. There are several different types of cancers occurring in the pancreas based on their location. These include:
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Adenosquamous Carcinoma
- Colloid Carcinoma
Pancreatic cancer symptoms
The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer vary from person to person. They usually present in rather progressed and advanced stages. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in the abdomen that radiates to the back
- Unintended weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in the colour of urine and stool
- Itchiness on the skin
- Recent diagnosis of diabetes
- Uncontrolled existing diabetes
- Blood clotting
Pancreatic cancer causes
There is no defined cause of pancreatic cancer. Through research, we know that the primary cause of pancreatic cancer lies in the DNA mutations that cause healthy cells in the gland to divide and multiply.
Pancreatic cancer, if left untreated, can lead to a range of complications, and can further metastasize and spread to other nearby as well as distant organs and blood vessels.
There are several factors that contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer, including:
- Chronic inflammation of the pancreas
- Genetic conditions
- Family history of the disease
- Older age
Pancreatic cancer complications
Pancreatic cancer is a serious and fatal illness that requires timely clinical intervention. It is not treated at the right time, pancreatic cancer can develop into various health concerns:
- Weight loss
- Abdomen pain
- Bowel obstruction
Diagnosing Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is usually detected in two scenarios – when a patient presents with the above-given symptoms or during the routine screening that is recommended due to high-risk assessment.
Your healthcare provider may order the following tests and procedures for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, including:
- CT scan
- Endoscopic ultrasound
- Pancreatic biopsy
- Blood test
Based on these reports, your doctor may further order certain tests to confirm the stage of cancer.
Pancreatic cancer treatment
Pancreatic cancer treatment is dependent on various factors including the stage and location of cancer, the severity of symptoms, your age and overall health.
The primary goal of pancreatic cancer treatment is to offer relief from the symptoms, stop the spread of cancer and treat cancer from its roots. There are different cancer treatment protocols for this disease:
- Surgery to remove tumours from the pancreatic head
- Surgery to remove tumours from the pancreatic body and tail
- Surgery to remove the entire pancreas
- Surgery for tumours affecting nearby blood vessels
- Targeted drug therapy
The main cause of pancreatic cancer is attributed to DNA changes in the healthy tissues of the pancreas. This cancer occurs when the cells in the pancreas begin to divide and multiply at an abnormal speed.
The early warning signs of pancreatic cancer include abdominal pain radiating to the back, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fever, dark coloured urine and pale coloured stool.
While there is no cure for pancreatic cancer, it can be effectively treated through a combination of treatment measures including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and more.