Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatments

Pancreatic Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

A cancer as clever as demon and as painful as slithering knife.

“There is not a single (symptom) that lets you home in specifically on pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Brian Wolpin, director of the Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory.

There are ample symptoms that can erode with time,

According to the Lustgarten Foundation, the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer that need to be taken seriously include:

  1. Jaundice (may cause skin irritation), dark urine or light-colored stool.
  2. General symptoms such as back pain, fatigue or weakness.
  3. Other illnesses, including pancreatitis and new-onset diabetes in an adult.
  4. Digestive problems, such as unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, malnutrition, nausea or vomiting and abdominal pain.
  5. Blood clots, which may cause pain, swelling, redness and warmth in the leg, chest pain or trouble breathing.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms include:

This is to be taken seriously and in case of in detail study is required, please consult the family doctor.

Understanding the symptoms is very beneficial to tackle the problems at the nascent stage. In case of pancreatic cancer, though the symptoms appear at a much-advanced stage, if the symptoms correlate, the least the patient can do is rush to the correct doctor.

As it grows and spreads, pancreatic cancer affects the whole body. The symptoms that showcase during this period can include:

  • Weight loss
  • Malaise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Elevated blood sugars.

Some people with pancreatic cancer develop diabetes as cancer impairs the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. (However, the vast majority of people with a new diagnosis of diabetes do not have pancreatic cancer.)


Symptoms of Rare Pancreatic Cancers

  1. Islet Cells

Islet cell tumors, also called neuroendocrine tumors, arise from the cells in the pancreas that produce hormones. Islet cell tumors form less than 5% of all pancreas tumors.

Like pancreatic adenocarcinoma, islet cell tumors may cause abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. Hormones released by an islet cell tumor can also cause symptoms: These include

  1. Insulinomas (excess insulin)

With excess insulin, we could expect problems recurring through excessive sweating, anxiety, lightheadedness, and fainting from low blood sugar

  1. Glucagonomas (excess glucagon)

Glucagon in overproduction can lead to diarrhoea, excessive thirst or urination, weight loss

  1. Gastrinomas (excess gastrin)

Often leading to gastritis can cause abdominal pain, stomach ulcers that can bleed, reflux, weight loss

  1. Somatostatinomas (excess somatostatin)

As hard as it sounds to pronounce, the complication can worsen from diarrhoea, weight loss, abdominal pain, foul-smelling fatty stools

  1. VIPomas (excess vasoactive intestinal peptide)

The excess production of the above watery diarrhoea, abdominal cramping, facial flushing.

Pancreatic Cancer Causes

A step by step understanding of the type of pancreatic cancer can help us feature the right treatment.

  1. The type of pancreatic cancer

The pancreas is about 6 inches (15 centimetres) long and looks similar to a pear lying on its side. It releases (secretes) hormones, including insulin, to help your body process sugar in the foods you eat.

And it produces digestive juices to help the body digest food and absorb nutrients.

  1. The origination of Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in your pancreas develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. Now! That is disturbing!

Correct it is disturbing the DNA of the body targeting its cells of what needs to be done.

The problem steps in when the mutation exceeds uncontrollably and continue to live after normal cells would die. This is exactly the phase of tumor. The accumulated cells are nothing but the tumor.

If left untreated, the pancreatic cancer cells can spread to nearby organs and blood vessels and to distant parts of the body.

  1. External factors

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Family history of genetic syndromes that can increase cancer risk, including a BRCA2 gene mutation, Lynch syndrome and familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Obesity
  • Older age, as most people are diagnosed after age 65


Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis

After the examination of the patient’s lab tests, etc. the doctor more often prefers a deeper analysis in case of pancreatic cancer. There is a very thin line that pancreatic cancer can be misunderstood with many other symptoms.

Imaging Tests include:

  1. Computed tomography (CT scan): A scanner takes multiple X-ray pictures, and a computer reconstructs them into detailed images of the inside of the abdomen. A CT scan helps doctors make a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
  2. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Using magnetic waves, a scanner creates detailed images of the abdomen, in particular the area around the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.
  3. Ultrasound: Harmless sound waves reflected off organs in the belly create images, potentially helping doctors make a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
  4. Positron emission tomography (PET scan): Radioactive glucose injected into the veins is absorbed by cancer cells. PET scans may help determine the degree of pancreatic cancer spread.

The diagnosis doesn’t end there and gets deeper, if imaging studies detect a mass in the pancreas, a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is likely, but not definite.

Only a biopsy — taking actual tissue from the mass — can diagnose pancreatic cancer. Biopsies can be performed in several ways:

  1. Percutaneous needle biopsy: Under imaging guidance, a radiologist inserts a needle into the mass, capturing some tissue. This procedure is also called a fine needle aspiration (FNA).
  2. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): A flexible tube with a camera and other tools on its end (endoscope) is put through the mouth to the small intestine, near the pancreas. ERCP can collect images from the area, as well as take a small biopsy with a brush.
  3. Endoscopic ultrasound: Similar to ERCP, an endoscope is placed near the pancreas. An ultrasound probe on the endoscope locates the mass, and a needle on the endoscope plucks some tissue from the mass.
  4. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that uses several small incisions. Using laparoscopy, a surgeon can collect tissue for biopsy, as well as see inside the abdomen to determine if pancreatic cancer has spread. However, laparoscopy has higher risks than other biopsy approaches.

If pancreatic cancer seems very likely, and the tumor appears removable by surgery, doctors may recommend surgery without a biopsy.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment by stage:

Stages of Pancreatic Cancer

The stage is a term used in cancer treatment to describe the extent of cancer’s spread. The stages of pancreatic cancer are used to guide treatment and to classify patients for clinical trials.

From stage 0 to stage 4, the stages of pancreatic cancer in detail explain itself the following:

Stage 0: No spread. Pancreatic cancer is limited to the top layers of cells in the ducts of the pancreas. The pancreatic cancer is not visible on imaging tests or even to the naked eye.

Stage I: Local growth. Pancreatic cancer is limited to the pancreas but has grown to less than 2 centimeters across (stage IA) or greater than 2 but no more than 4 centimeters (stage IB).

Stage II: Local spread. Pancreatic cancer is over 4 centimeters and is either limited to the pancreas or there is a local spread where cancer has grown outside of the pancreas or has spread to nearby lymph nodes. It has not spread to distant sites.

Stage III: Wider spread. The tumor may have expanded into nearby major blood vessels or nerves but has not metastasized to distant sites.

Stage IV: Confirmed spread. Pancreatic cancer has spread to distant organs.

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