Pancreatic Cancer Revealed

Pancreatic cancer affects the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that secretes enzymes that helps digestions and the metabolism of sugars. Because pancreatic cancer spreads quickly, it is rarely diagnosed in its early stages. This is the top reason why pancreatic cancer is type to cancer with the highest deaths. Many of this cancer’s symptoms and signs are not detected until the cancer is at its later stages.

 Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include blood clots, weight loss, depression, loss of appetite, upper abdominal pain that radiates down to the lumbar, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

           Like any other cancer, pancreatic cancer has four stages. In stage one, the cancer affects only the pancreas. In stage two, the cancer spreads to the nearby tissues, organs, and lymph nodes of the pancreas. In stage three, the cancer has spread to the major blood vessels beyond the pancreas. Finally, in stage four, the cancer has spread to distant organs such as the linings of the stomach, lungs, and liver.

           There is no cause that is found to cause pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer develops when the DNA of the cells in the pancreas mutates. These mutations would uncontrollably grow and continue to live after the normal cells die. Many pancreatic cancer starts in the cells that line the pancreatic ducts.

This type of cancer is called pancreatic exocrine cancer or pancreatic adenocarcinoma. A rare form of pancreatic cancer is called islet cell cancer or pancreatic endocrine cancer. This is when the cancer creates a hormone-producing cell in the pancreas. Although there is no exact cause of pancreatic cancer, there are factors that increase the risk for this cancer.

African Americans have been found to have an increased risk for pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, being overweight or obese, a past condition of chronic inflammation of the pancreas, diabetes, and smoking increased the risk for pancreatic cancer. There is also a genetic factor that plays a part in the increased risk for pancreatic cancer. Those with family members with pancreatic cancer are more likely to have this disease, and a family history of some syndromes can increase the risk for cancer such as Lynch syndrome, BRCA2 gene syndrome, and familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM).

           Pancreatic cancer also poses complications such as jaundice, pain, bowel obstruction, and weight loss. Because pancreatic cancers obstruct the liver’s bile duct, jaundice can occur. A pancreatic cancer patient can experience yellow skin and eyes, pale stools, and dark urine. As the tumor grows, it may put pressure on the nerves of the abdomen, causing excruciating pain. Doctors can provide pain medications or radiation to provide temporary relief.

Bowel obstruction can occur because pancreatic cancers invade the small intestine and can obstruct the flow of digested food from the stomach to the intestines. Weight loss occurs in many pancreatic patients because of nausea, vomiting, and the lack of digestive enzymes.

           The treatment for this cancer depends on the patient’s health, age, and preferences, and the stage of the cancer. The primary goal of pancreatic cancer treatment is to eliminate the cancer. If this is not possible, then the doctors will focus on preventing the cancer from growing and spreading. Surgery on the pancreas is an option if the cancer is on its earlier stages and is confined to the pancreas only. Another options would be radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy that can destroy cancerous cells.

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