Pancreatic cancer begins in your pancreas tissues — an organ in your abdomen that lies behind your stomach's lower part. Your pancreas releases enzymes that aid digestion and produce hormones that help manage your blood sugar.Pancreatic cancer treatment options are chosen based on the extent of cancer. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these.
What are the symptoms of Pancreatic cancer?
Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer often don't occur until the disease is advanced. They may include:
Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
New diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that's becoming more difficult to control
What causes Pancreatic cancer?
It's not clear what causes pancreatic cancer. Doctors have identified some factors that may increase the risk of this type of cancer, including smoking and having specific inherited gene mutations.
How is Pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
Pancreatic ultrasoundOpen pop-up dialog boxIf your doctor suspects pancreatic cancer, he or she may have you undergo one or more of the following tests:
Imaging tests that create pictures of your internal organs. Techniques used to diagnose pancreatic cancer include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and, sometimes, positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Using a scope to create ultrasound pictures of your pancreas. An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) uses an ultrasound device to make images of your pancreas inside your abdomen.
Removing a tissue sample for testing (biopsy). A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small
sample of tissue for examination under a microscope. Most often, the tissue is collected during the EUS by passing special tools through the endoscope.
Blood test. Your doctor may test your blood for specific proteins (tumor markers) shed by pancreatic cancer cells. One tumor marker test used in pancreatic cancer is called CA19-9.
How is Pancreatic cancer managed or treated?
Different types of surgery are performed depending on the purpose of the surgery.
Laparoscopy. Sometimes, the surgeon may choose to start with a laparoscopy. During a laparoscopy, several small holes are made in the abdomen, and a tiny camera is passed into the body while a patient receives anesthesia.
Surgery to remove the tumor. Different types of surgery are used depending on where the tumor is located in the pancreas. In all of the surgeries discussed below, nearby lymph nodes are removed as part of the operation.
Whipple procedure. This surgery may be done if the cancer is located only in the head of the pancreas. This is an extensive surgery in which the surgeon removes the pancreas' head and the part of the small intestine called the duodenum and the bile duct and stomach.
Distal pancreatectomy. This surgery is commonly done if the cancer is located in the tail of the pancreas. In this surgery, the surgeon removes the tail and body of the pancreas and the spleen.
Total pancreatectomy. If cancer has spread throughout the pancreas or is located in many areas in the pancreas, a total pancreatectomy may be needed.
If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, he or she tries to determine the extent (stage) of cancer. Using information from staging tests, your doctor assigns your pancreatic cancer a stage, which helps determine what treatments are most likely to benefit you.The stages of pancreatic cancer are indicated by Roman numerals ranging from 0 to IV. The lowest steps suggest that the cancer is confined to the pancreas. By stage IV, cancer has spread to other parts of the body.The cancer staging system continues to evolve and is becoming more complex as doctors improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.Don't hesitate to ask your doctor about his or her experience with diagnosing pancreatic cancer. If you have any doubts, get a second opinion.