This type of cancer begins in the tissue of your pancreas. Pancreas is an organ in the abdomen which lies horizontally behind the lower part of your stomach. The pancreas is releasing enzymes to aid digestion and hormones which can help to manage the blood sugar. The pancreatic cancer usually spreads rapidly to nearby organs. There are rare cases when pancreatic cancer is detected in its early stages. Those people who have a family history of pancreatic cancer or people, who have pancreatic cysts, should take some screening steps to help them to detect the problem in early stages. Diabetes is one of the most common signs of pancreatic cancer, especially when it happens with jaundice, a pain in the upper abdomen which spreads to the back and weight loss. The treatment for this type of cancer can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery or a combination of these.
Pancreatic cancer symptoms
The signs and symptoms of the pancreatic cancer often do not happen until this disease is in advanced stage. Here are some signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer:
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes (jaundice)
- Blood clots
- New – onset diabetes
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- Pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to your back
Pancreatic cancer causes
It is not known what the cause for pancreatic cancer in most cases is. Doctors have said that smoking can increase your risk of developing it. The pancreas is about 15 cm (6 inches) long and it looks like a pear lying on its side. Pancreas is releasing hormones, such as insulin, to help the body to process sugar in the food we eat. Also it produces digestive juices to help the body digest food. When the cells in your pancreas develop mutations in their DNA, then pancreatic cancer happens. These mutations are causing cells to grow uncontrollably and they continue to live after the normal cells would die. These accumulating cells can form a tumor. If the pancreatic cancer is untreated, then it could spread to blood vessels and nearby organs. In the most cases, pancreatic cancer begins in the cells that line the ducts of pancreas and this type of cancer is known as pancreatic exocrine cancer or pancreatic adenocarcinoma. There are rare cases when the cancer can form in the hormone – producing cells or the neuroendocrine cells of the pancreas. These types of cancers are known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, pancreatic endocrine cancer and islet cell tumors.
Here are some factors which can increase your risk of pancreatic cancer:
- Older age, as most people are diagnosed after age 65
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
- Family history of genetic syndromes which can increase cancer risk, such as FAMMM (familial atypical mole – malignant melanoma) syndrome, Lynch syndrome and BRCA2 gene mutation
- Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
There was one study in which was shown that the combination of a poor diet, long – standing diabetes and smoking is increasing the risk of pancreatic cancer beyond the risk of any of these factors alone.
Pancreatic cancer complications
When the pancreatic cancer progresses, then it can cause complications, such as
- Bowel obstruction: The type of pancreatic cancer that presses or grows into the 1st part of the small intestine (called duodenum) can block the flow of digested food from your stomach into your intestines. Your doctor can recommend a stent to be placed in the small intestine to hold it open. Also surgery may be needed to attach the stomach to the lower point in the intestines which is not blocked by cancer.
- Pain: The growing tumor can press on nerves in the abdomen which is causing the pain to become severe. The pain medications will help you to feel more comfortable. The radiation therapy can help to stop the tumor growth temporarily and it will give you some relief.
- Jaundice: The pancreatic cancer can block the liver’s bile duct which could lead to jaundice. The signs of jaundice are pale – colored stools, dark – colored urine and yellow skin and eyes. This condition usually happens without abdominal pain.