What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that first arise in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ located behind the lower abdomen on the right side of the abdomen. The reason of this organ is to secrete enzymes that help your body digest food. It also releases hormones that are responsible for regulating your blood glucose levels.
Pancreatic cancer symptoms often do not appear until the disease is advanced. These may include:
- Abdominal pain that emit to your back.
- Unintentional weight loss
- Yellowing color of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
- Light-colored stools
- Dark colored urine
- Itchy skin
A new diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that is becoming more difficult to control.
- Blood clots
It is not clear what causes pancreatic cancer. Doctors have identified certain factors that can increase the risk of this type of cancer, including smoking and certain inherited gene mutations.
Factors that increase your risk of pancreatic cancer includes:
- Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
- A family history of genetic syndromes that may increase the risk of cancer, including BRCA2 gene mutations, Lynch syndrome and familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome.
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
- Aging, as most people are diagnosed after age 65.
As pancreatic cancer grows, it can cause complications such as:
- Weight loss. Some factors can cause weight loss in people with pancreatic cancer. Weight loss may occur as cancer uses up the body’s energy. Cancer treatment can cause nausea and vomiting or difficulty eating from tumor pressure on your stomach. Or your body may have trouble processing nutrients from food because your pancreas isn’t making enough digestive juices.
- Jaundice. Pancreatic cancer blocks the bile ducts of the liver, which can cause jaundice. Symptoms include pale skin and eyes, dark urine, and pale stools. Jaundice usually occurs without abdominal pain.
- Pain. A growing tumor can put pressure on your stomach nerves, which can cause severe pain. Pain medicines can help you feel more comfortable.
Intestinal obstruction. Pancreatic cancer that grows or shrinks in the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) can block the flow of digested food from your stomach to your intestines.
You can reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer if you:
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, try to stop. Talk with your doctor about strategies to help you quit, including support groups, medications and nicotine replacement therapy. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you need to lose weight, aim for slow, steady weight loss – 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kg) per week. Help lose weight by combining daily exercise with a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains in small portions.
- Choose a healthy diet. A diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains can help lower your risk of cancer.
Pancreatic cancer treatment depends on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as your overall health and personal preferences. For most people, the first goal of pancreatic cancer treatment is to eradicate the cancer when possible. When this is not an option, the focus may be on improving your quality of life and limiting the cancer from growing or causing more damage.
Treatment includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these. When pancreatic cancer is advanced and these treatments are unlikely to help, your doctor will focus on symptom relief (curative care) to keep you as comfortable as possible. As long as possible.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have any unexplained symptoms that worry you. Many other conditions can cause these symptoms, so your doctor may check for these conditions as well as pancreatic cancer.