Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. They can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
The cause is unknown. Research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.
Risk factors that increase your chance of pancreatic cancer include:
Age: 40 or older
Smoking and using smokeless tobacco (eg, chewing tobacco)
Family or personal history of certain types of colon polyps or colon cancer
Family history of pancreatic cancer (especially in Ashkenazi Jews with BRCA2 [breast cancer associated]) gene
Pancreatic cancer does not cause symptoms in its early stages. The cancer may grow for some time before it causes symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they may be very vague. In many cases, the cancer has spread outside the pancreas by the time it is discovered.
Symptoms will vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. Symptoms include:
Loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss
Pain—in the upper abdomen, sometimes spreading to the back (a result of the cancer growing and spreading)
PTC—a type of x-ray test that shows blockages in the bile ducts of the liver
—x-rays of blood vessels taken after an injection of dye that makes the blood vessels show up on the x-rays
—removal of a sample of pancreatic tissue to test for cancer cells
Once cancer of the pancreas is found, staging tests are performed. These test help to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent. Treatments for pancreatic cancer depend on the stage of the cancer.
Removal of the cancerous tumor and nearby tissue may be done. Nearby lymph nodes may also need to be removed. In pancreatic cancer, surgery may also be performed to relieve symptoms. Surgeries include:
Whipple procedure—removal of the head of the pancreas, part of the small intestine, and some of the tissues around it
Total pancreatectomy—removal of the whole pancreas, part of the small intestine, part of the stomach, the bile duct, the gallbladder, spleen, and most of the lymph nodes in the area
Distal pancreatectomy—removal of the body and tail of the pancreas
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream. They travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are killed as well.
The use of medications or substances made by the body. They can increase or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. It is also called biologic response modifier (BRM) therapy.
Combined Modality Therapy
Most times, pancreatic cancer is discovered at an advanced stage. Surgery may not be appropriate in this case. If surgery cannot be done, then chemotherapy and radiation are offered together to prolong survival.
Surgery would be appropriate in only 25% of patients with this disease in the early stage. In these cases, the patient would benefit from surgery. After surgery, follow-up chemotherapy and radiation therapy have been found to prolong survival in some cases.
There are no guidelines for preventing this disease. If you think you are at risk for pancreatic cancer, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk factors. Work together to make an appropriate schedule for check-ups.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a