Pancreatic Cancer

Posted September 15, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

The pancreas is a small, hockey stick-shaped gland located behind the stomach. The main jobs of the pancreas are to aid in food digestion and regulate blood sugar levels in the body.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

There is no clear answer. We don’t know exactly what causes pancreatic cancer. However, research has identified some risk factors.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

  • Upper abdominal pain that may spread to the back.

  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice).

  • Tiredness.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Light-colored poop.

  • Dark-colored urine.

  • Weight loss.

  • Blood clots in the body.

  • Itchy skin.

  • New or worsening diabetes.

  • Nausea and vomiting

Risk factors of Pancreatic Cancer

  • Smoking cigarettes, cigars and using other forms of tobacco.

  • Obesity is also a risk factor. Carrying weight around the waist is a risk factor even if you do not have obesity.

  • Having diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity.

  • The new development of diabetes at an older age and in someone with a normal weight or body mass index could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.

  • Being exposed to chemicals used by dry cleaners and metal workers.

  • Having chronic pancreatitis, a permanent inflammation of the pancreas usually associated with smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol.

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

  • An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a thin tube with a camera at the tip that is passed through the mouth and into the stomach.

  • The ultrasound probe at the end of the endoscope allows imaging of the pancreas through the stomach wall.

  • If necessary, an ultrasound-guided biopsy (tissue sample) from the pancreas can be obtained during the procedure.

  • A blood test can find a substance called a tumor marker.

  • For pancreatic cancer, high levels of carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9 — a type of protein released by pancreatic cancer cells — might indicate a tumor.

Stages of Pancreatic Cancer

  • Stage 0: Also known as carcinoma in situ, Stage 0 is characterized by abnormal cells in the lining of the pancreas. The cells could become cancerous and spread to nearby tissue.

  • Stage 1: The tumor is in the pancreas.

  • Stage 2: The tumor is in the pancreas and has either spread to nearby tissues, organs or lymph nodes.

  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread to major blood vessels near the pancreas. It may have also spread to nearby lymph nodes.

  • Stage 4: In stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the cancer has spread to distant areas in the body, such as the liver, lungs or abdominal cavity. It has possibly spread to organs, tissues or lymph nodes near the pancreas.

Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

  • Surgical removal: The cancerous part of the pancreas (resection) is removed. Lymph nodes near to the pancreas may also be removed. The surgery to remove the pancreas or part of the pancreas is called a pancreatectomy. If your tumor is located in the head (the widest part of pancreas near small intestine) of the pancreas, your provider may recommend the Whipple procedure. This surgical method removes the head of the pancreas, the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine), the gallbladder, a portion of the bile duct and nearby lymph nodes.

  • Radiation therapy: High-speed energy used to kill the cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy: This method uses drugs that kill cancer cells.

  • Immunotherapy: Treatment to help your body fight the cancer. Immunotherapy has largely been ineffective against pancreatic cancer, but about 1% of people with pancreatic cancer and a specific genetic change may benefit from it.

  • Targeted therapy: Directed at certain genes or proteins that help cancer grow. Genetic testing is generally how we determine if a targeted therapy is right for you.

  • Clinical trials: Talk to your healthcare provider about whether participating in a clinical trial might be an option.

diseases disorders cancers pancreatic-cancer

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