Uncontrolled growth of malignant cells at the pancreas (a glandular organ just behind the stomach) is called as pancreatic cancer. Eventually these cancer cells attack the other parts and organs of the body. Pancreatic cancer has different types; however adenocarcinoma is the most common one.
Diagnosing of pancreatic cancer is usually done when the disease is in the advanced stage and spread to other parts; since the symptoms are not strong enough to indicate a deadly disease like cancer. This article is to make you aware about all the important facts about pancreatic cancer to fight against it –
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer appear strongly only when it has reached the advanced stage. They are loss of appetite, skin and white of the eye gets yellow (jaundice), depression, weight loss, blood clots, and abdominal pain. Visit your doctor as soon as you experience such symptoms as these are not necessarily always cancer.
Causes and Risk Factors
The main cause behind pancreatic cancer is the mutation development in the DNA. These mutations lead to uncontrollable growth of the cancer cells thereby damaging the normal ones. These cells together have chances of forming a tumor. Commonly, pancreatic cancer grows along the ducts of the pancreas. There are some risk factors that increases the chances of pancreatic cancer –
- Its more common in African-American race
- Obesity that leads to chronic inflammation of the pancreas
- Family history of cancer risk
Stages and its Determination
Pancreatic cancer stage is determined once you are properly diagnosed with the disease. To understand the stage, you will be asked to go for tests like laparoscopy test and see the interior tissues and pancreatic condition; imaging tests like MRI and CT scan; blood tests, tumor marker test called CA19-9.
In stage 1 the cancer stays confined in the pancreas, while in stage 2, the cancer has spread beyond pancreas to the nearby organs and lymph nodes, in stage 3 the cancer reaches the major blood vessels and in stage 4 or final stage it reaches to distant sites like lungs, liver, and other abdominal organs.
Pancreatic cancer treatment solely depends on the location of the cancer, your age, stage and overall health conditions.
- To eliminate the cancer, the doctor might suggest surgery as the first option. Pancreatoduodenectomy is done involving with Whipple process that removes the head of the pancreas.
- Other treatment options are radiation therapy with high-energy beams like X-rays that destroys the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy also kills the cancer cells. Sometimes a combined chemoradiation is given to stage 3 and 4 patients.
Pancreatic cancer is known to be a silent disease as its signs and symptoms often get unnoticed. It is fourth leading cause of deaths due to cancer. Extensive researches are still on to find a prompt way to diagnose and treat pancreatic cancer. Presently, around 125 research projects are being conducted in 40 medical and research centers all across the globe.