Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas (an organ in the abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of your stomach. Your pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars.
Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early. Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it’s a leading cause of death in cancer. Signs and symptoms may not appear until pancreatic cancer is quite advanced and complete surgical removal isn’t possible.
HOW PANCREATIC CANCER FORMS
Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in your pancreas develop mutations in their DNA. These mutations cause cells to grow uncontrollably and to continue living after normal cells would die. These accumulating cells can form a tumor.
Most pancreatic cancer begins in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. This type of cancer is called PANCREATIC ADENOCARCINOMA or pancreatic exocrine cancer.
Rarely, cancer can form in the hormone producing cells of the pancreas. This type of cancer is called ISLET CELL CANCER or PANCREATIC ENDOCRINE CANCER.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer often don’t occur until the disease is advanced. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to your back.
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Blood clots
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the stage and location of the cancer as well as on your age, overall health and personal preferences.
The first goal of pancreatic cancer treatment is to eliminate the cancer, when possible. When that isn’t an option, the focus may be on preventing the pancreatic cancer from growing or causing more harm.
When pancreatic cancer is advanced and treatments aren’t likely to offer a benefit, your doctor will help relieve symptoms and make you as comfortable as possible.
If the cancer is restricted to the pancreas, there are two options of surgery to undergo depending on the location of the tumour, such as:
- Surgery for tumors in the pancreatic head.
- Surgery for tumors in the pancreatic tail and body.
Other treatments include:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Clinical trial.