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Pancreatic Cancer

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Overview

The Pancreas is a gland about six inches long and located in the abdomen. It is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen and gallbladder. Pancreas plays an important role in digestion and in regulating blood sugar levels in the body. Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of pancreas.

Pancreatic Cancer occurs when cells in the pancreas develop mutations in their DNA. These mutations cause cells to grow rapidly and uncontrollably. This accumulation of cells forms a tumor. Most pancreatic cancer occurs in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. This type of cancer is called pancreatic adenocarcinoma or pancreatic exocrine cancer. If pancreatic cancer is not treated on time then it spreads to nearby organs and blood vessels.

Generally, Pancreatic Cancer is not detected at the early stage and it spreads rapidly to nearby organs.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer doesn’t show specific signs and symptoms at the early stage, but at the advanced stage of pancreatic cancer various symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen that spreads to back
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Depression
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of skin and the whites of eyes (jaundice)

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

Common causes or risk factors of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of genetic syndromes increases cancer risk
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Older age

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

Early detection is always crucial in the complete cure of any cancer. Various diagnosis tests and procedures include:

 

  • Blood tests: Blood test is used to detect specific proteins which make cancerous tumor.
  • Imaging tests: Various imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans are used to visualize internal organs.
  • Biopsy: In Biopsy procedure, doctor obtains tissue sample from the pancreas and examines it under the microscope.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) uses an ultrasound device to make images of pancreas from inside the abdomen.

Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer treatment is mainly depending on the stage of cancer. Various Treatment option are:

Surgery:

Cancer Surgeon performs surgery as per the location of the cancerous tumor. Doctor performs Pancreaticoduodenectomy if cancer is located in the head of the pancreas. This is also known as Whipple procedure.

The doctor also performs Distal Pancreatectomy to remove left side (body and tail) of the pancreas. Cancer surgeons can also remove spleen. In a Total Pancreatectomy surgery, the doctor removes entire pancreas in case of complete damage due to cancerous cells.

In the advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, a highly specialized and experienced surgeon performs surgery to remove and reconstruct parts of blood vessels if the tumor involves nearby blood vessels.

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    Radiation Therapy:

    In Radiation therapy, high-powered energy beams such as X-rays and Protons are used to kill cancer cells or shrink tumor. During radiation therapy, patient lie on a table while a machine moves around the patient and directs radiation precisely on the body.

    In advanced stage of cancer, radiation therapy is used before or after the surgery to relieve pain. It’s often combined with chemotherapy treatments. If surgery is not an option then Cancer Surgeon performs combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy as a primary treatment.

    Chemotherapy:

    In Chemotherapy treatment, drugs are used to kill cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is often used after the surgery to kill any cancer cells that remained in the body. It can be used alone or combined with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy can be used before the surgery to shrink cancers. In the advanced stage of cancer, chemotherapy is used to relieve pain and other symptoms.

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