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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer occurs within the tissues of the pancreas, a vital organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach. Pancreas function as an aid in digesting and producing hormones that help manage your blood sugar.

The pancreas also makes two key hormones called glucagon and insulin. These hormones help in controlling glucose (sugar) metabolism. Pancreas cancer may be difficult to detect due to its location and, thus, is often diagnosed in more advanced stages. It also doesn't cause any symptoms until after it has spread to other organs. To manage pancreatic Cancer, options are chosen based on the extent of the Cancer.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms and consult the doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer often don't begin to show until the disease is advanced. They may include:

  • Abdominal pain that moves to your back
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Yellow skin and white eyes(jaundice)
  • Light-colored stools
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Recent diagnosis of diabetes or pre-existing diabetes that's becoming difficult to control
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue

Cause of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer begins when cells in your pancreas develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. When the mutations in DNA grow uncontrollably, this led to the accumulation of cells resulting in a tumor. If left untreated, the pancreatic cancer cells can spread to nearby organs and blood vessels and distant parts of the body.

Risk factors

Aspects that may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Family history of genetic syndromes can increase cancer risk
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Obesity
  • Old age ( most people get diagnosed with cancer after age 65)

Diagnosis

You would have to undergo the following test if your doctor suspects Pancreatic Cancer:

  • Imaging tests: The doctor will advise you to go for computerized tomography (CT) scans, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and, sometimes, positron emission tomography (PET) scans to visualize your internal organs, including the pancreas. The test will give accurate images of your internal organs.
  • Removing a tissue sample for testing (biopsy): The doctor may perform a biopsy to extract a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope. The tissue is collected from the pancreas by inserting a needle through your skin and into your pancreas.
  • Blood test: The doctor may recommend a tumor marker test called CA19-9 for pancreatic Cancer. The blood is analyzed for specific proteins (tumor markers) shed by pancreatic cancer cells.

If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer, then the doctor will try to find how far the extent of the Cancer has reached in your body. This helps in determining treatment to benefit you.

Pancreatic cancer treatment

The treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the stage of Cancer. There might be some complications during pancreatic cancer treatment, such as weight loss, abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, and liver failure.

Following are the treatment involved:

  • Surgery: If the pancreatic cancer is in the early stages, the surgeon can remove all or some portions of the pancreas to eliminate the original tumor, but it will not dispose of Cancer that has spread to other portions of the body.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells and manage the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy provides relief to patients who are in late-stage Cancer.
  • Radiation: An intense beam of energy is used to target and eliminate cancerous cells before and after surgery. Radiation therapy is provided alongside chemotherapy. It is operated when cancer spreads outside of the pancreas.
  • Supportive (palliative) care: To provide relief from pain and other symptoms of a critical illness, palliative care is provided. Palliative care can be exercised while undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.

Prevention

You may reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer if you:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Choose a nutritious diet.

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