Causes and symptoms of pancreatic cancer

When cells in the pancreas become malignant, the disease is termed as pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is an organ just behind the stomach. Its main function is to produce digestive juices and insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Exocrine cells in pancreas make digestive juices and endocrine cells make the hormones. Most often, pancreatic cancer occurs in the exocrine cells but can spread to other parts of the gland. The disease is more commonly seen in men than in women.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer: All cancer types occur due to abnormal cell growth. The cause of the cell growth may vary for different types of the disease. There is no known cause of pancreatic cancer. But there are several risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of getting affected by the disease.
• Changes in the DNA structure of the cells
• Inflammation or swelling in the pancreas
• Heredity
• Smoking
• Obesity
• Lack of physical activity
• Diet devoid of sufficient fiber but high in fat
• Excess alcohol consumption
• Diabetes
• Problems in the liver such as cirrhosis

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer: Pancreatic cancer symptoms often develop once the disease has advanced sufficiently. Even at these later stages, the signs of pancreatic cancer are mostly non-specific to the disease and this makes the diagnosis difficult.
• Abdomen pain especially in the middle or upper parts of the organ can occur when cancer cells exert pressure on the organ tissues. Back pain can also be a possible pancreatic cancer symptom.
• The skin can turn yellow along with the white areas in the eyes (jaundice) when malignant pancreatic cancer cells begin to affect the liver.
• Appetite loss, vomiting and feeling of nausea are common pancreatic cancer symptoms.
• Unexplained or sudden weight loss
• Fatigue, feelings of weakness
• Depression
• Fatty stools
• Itchy skin
• Formation of blood clots
• Enlargement of liver or gallbladder can occur when malignant pancreatic cells begin to affect these nearby organs.

Diagnosis: Depending on an individual’s symptoms, the doctor may order tests to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. These tests may include one or more of the following
• Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
• Computed tomography scan (CT)
• Biopsy
• Abdominal ultrasound
• Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
• Angiogram
• Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC)
• Laparosopy
• Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
• Blood tests
Treatment: Treatment for pancreatic cancer can involve several different approaches.
• Surgery Through surgical procedures, it is possible to completely remove cancerous cells from the patient’s body. But only if the cancer has not spread to a larger part of the gland.
– Whipple procedure is a complex and risky surgery. It is used to remove the entire pancreas or the head of the organ along with other nearby tissues from stomach or the duodenum.
– Total pancreatectomy removes the spleen along with entire pancreas.
– Distal pancreatectomy removes the end part of pancreas and the spleen.
• Radiation therapy
• Chemotherapy