Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreas is a gland organ that secrets juices to digest food, help absorb nutrients, and releases hormones balancing blood sugar. Pancreatic cancer is cancer grows in the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer ranks number 4 of cancer caused death worldwide. There are two types: 1. Adenocarcinoma. This is the most common type, accounts for 95% of pancreatic cancer. 2. Neuroendocrine tumor. This type of cancer is rare. Here, we mostly discuss about adenocarcinoma.

Common Causes and Risk Factors:

  • Old age
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Smoking
  • Family history of cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Unidentified causes

Symptoms and Signs

It is a very aggressive tumor but difficult to make a early diagnosis due to its silent growth. When the tumor grows big causing obstruction of the bile and pancreatic draining system or migrates into other organs, symptoms start to become obvious. This is usually the late stage. The most common symptoms and signs of pancreatic cancer are:

  • Courvoisier sign (Painless jaundice and palpable gallbladder)
  • Weight loss
  • Dark urine
  • Light colored stools
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fullness
  • Back pain
  • Trousseau sign (blood clots formation)

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis is based on clinical presentation, risk facotrs, and one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood works
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CT
  • MRI/MRCP
  • ERCP
  • EUS (see picture at upper right, a pancreatic cancer found by EUS)

Treatment is based on the tumor size, spread or the tumor, and patient’s health condition. If found early, a surgery called Whipple procedure maybe considered.

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • ERCP with stent
  • Palliative care

References:

  1. PubMed Health.
  2. Wikipedia.
  3. Mayo clinic online health information.
  4. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease- by Mark Feldman MD, et al.
  5. The Little Black Book of Gastroenterology-by David W. Hay.
  6. Principles of Clinical Gastroenterology by Tadataka Yamada, et al.


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