Pancreatic Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Types and Treatment Options

What Is Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Types & Treatments

November 21, 2023 0

When cells in your pancreas mutate (alter) and proliferate uncontrollably, a tumour is formed, known as pancreatic cancer. Our pancreas is a gland located between the stomach and the spine in the abdominal region of our body. The main function of the pancreas is to produce the hormones that regulate blood sugar levels and the digestive enzymes.

A majority of pancreatic cancers start in the pancreatic ducts. The main pancreatic duct, also known as the Wirsung duct, connects your pancreas and the common bile duct. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is the most common kind of pancreatic cancer. It starts in the cells around the pancreatic ducts that carry the digestive enzymes. Pancreatic cancer is rarely discovered in its early stages when there is the best possibility of a cure. This is because symptoms appear only after the disease has spread to other organs.

Pancreatic Cancer Types

Pancreatic cancers are primarily of the following two types

Exocrine tumours: These make up more than 90% of all pancreatic tumours. Adenocarcinoma, the most prevalent kind of pancreatic cancer, starts in the cells lining your organs.

Neuroendocrine tumours: Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) account for less than 10% of pancreatic tumours. NET is also called islet cell carcinoma.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer usually appear much later as the disease progresses. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include the following :

  • Back or side aches accompanied by stomach pain
  • Diminished appetite
  • Reduced weight
  • Jaundice
  • Floating or light-coloured stools
  • Dark urine 
  • Itching
  • Newly diagnosed diabetes 
  • Arm or leg pain brought on by a blood clot
  • Weakness or exhaustion

Why Does Pancreatic Cancer Occur?

The precise cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. However, there are some risk factors that contribute to pancreatic cancer in people. These include:

  • smoking tobacco products, such as cigars and cigarettes
  • excessive weight, especially if it’s concentrated around the waist
  • Diabetes, particularly the Type 2 variety. Diabetes that appears suddenly may also indicate pancreatic cancer
  • exposure to specific chemicals, such as petrochemicals and insecticides
  • A persistent inflammation of the pancreas is known as chronic pancreatitis
  • hereditary chronic pancreatitis caused by mutations in genes that are inherited from one’s biological parents
  • Genetically-based disorders where certain genes, like the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, are altered or mutated when passed from parent to child

How is Pancreatic Cancer Treated?

An ideal treatment plan’s specifics are dependent on several aspects, such as:

  • The precise location of the tumour
  • What phase is it in
  • Your general well-being
  • If the cancer has progressed to areas other than your pancreas

Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer Consist of

Surgery: The only practical treatment for pancreatic cancer is surgery. However, doctors only suggest it if they believe they can eradicate every trace of cancer. If not, there are minimal to no advantages of surgery.

The malignancy must be entirely contained within the pancreas in order for surgery to be successful. Even then a complete cancer removal might not be achievable.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy medications are used to destroy cancer cells. These medications are administered by medical professionals via an IV in your arm or as pills.

Chemotherapy is used by medical professionals as a stand-alone treatment, particularly for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. In order to reduce the tumour or eradicate any cancer cells that may have persisted after surgery, they could additionally advise chemotherapy.

Radiation: High-energy X-rays are used in radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells. This method is frequently used by medical professionals to treat pancreatic cancer.

Most frequently, your medical team qill mix chemotherapy and radiation therapy (chemoradiation). It could be advised before surgery, after or in addition to surgery. For those who are ineligible for surgery due to advanced cancer, radiation therapy may potentially be able to control the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

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