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Pancreatic Cancer: Information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Posted on- Aug 28, 2015
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Pancreatic cancer occurs within the tissues of the pancreas, a vital organ that is located behind the stomach. Your pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. Due to the location of the pancreas, this type of cancer may be difficult to detect and is often diagnosed in more advanced stages of the disease. Even when diagnosed early, pancreatic cancer often has a poor outlook. It spreads very quickly and is seldom detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it's a leading cause of cancer death.

Symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer often doesn’t exhibit symptoms until it reaches the advanced stages. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:


Tests and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer

There are different tests and procedures for diagnosing pancreatic cancer. If your doctor suspects any of the above mentioned symptoms, he may suggest the following procedures:
  • Imaging tests to create pictures of your internal organs: Imaging tests help your doctor visualize your internal organs, including your pancreas. These tests include ultrasound, CT scan and MRI.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound: An endoscopic ultrasound uses an ultrasound device to make images of your pancreas from inside your abdomen.
  • A scope to inject dye into the pancreatic ducts: It is a test where an endoscope is passed down your throat, through your stomach and into the upper part of your small intestine to highlight the bile ducts in your pancreas.
  • Biopsy: It is a procedure to remove a small sample of tissue from the pancreas for examination under a microscope.

Treatment options for pancreatic cancer

Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the type of cancer, the stage, age, health status, and additional personal preferences. The goal of the treatment is to kill cancerous cells and prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be used to remove all or part of the pancreas. If the cancer has not spread to the surrounding tissues, it is possible to completely cure a patient by surgically removing the cancer from the body. A surgery is basically of three types, (i) The pancreas head, and sometimes the entire organ is removed along with a portion of the stomach, duodenum, lymph nodes, and other tissue (ii) The pancreas tail is removed, and sometimes part of the body, along with the spleen and (iii) The entire pancreas and spleen are removed.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to help kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be injected into a vein or taken orally. You may receive only one chemotherapy drug, or you may receive a combination of chemotherapy drugs.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation treatment destroys cancer by focusing high-energy rays on the cancer cells. Radiotherapy can be used as a standalone treatment to shrink a tumour or destroy cancer cells, and it is also used in combination with other cancer treatments.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells. These drugs block chemicals that signal cancer cells to grow and divide.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. Sadly, many patients don’t receive a diagnosis until it has spread to other organs of the body. It is important to follow all your doctor’s recommendations to help improve your chances of recovery and survival.