A person has pancreatic cancer when a neoplasm is found, which results in the formation of cancerous tissue in the pancreas. This organ comprises two types of cells: endocrine and exocrine, so cancer will be distinguished according to which ones are affected. It is one of the most deadly cancers due to its difficulty in detecting it, both because of its location behind the stomach and because it does not present symptoms until an advanced stage of the tumor. Some factors, such as smoking or family history, may pose a greater risk of developing this type of cancer. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, keep reading this FastlyHealarticle, in which we inform you about the causes, symptoms, and treatment.
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Types of pancreatic cancer according to the glands involved
Before talking about pancreatic cancer itself, we must know a little more about its functions. The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach, next to the spleen, and is made up of two types of glands:
- Exocrine. They are responsible for producing a juice that contains enzymes, and these facilitate the digestion of food and are released in the intestine. It is a vital gland so that food can pass through the intestines and be absorbed. It constitutes 95% of the pancreatic cells.
- Endocrine. The rest of the cells from the endocrine glands are grouped into islets, which secrete hormones with a relevant function for the body, such as insulin and glucose, released into the blood and responsible for regulating the blood sugar level.
Pancreatic cancer prognosis
The pancreatic tumor occurs in the exocrine part in most cases, which implies a malignant tumor and usually a poor prognosis. The advanced stage in which the cancer is generally found when detected means that the chances of a cure are lower. However, pancreatic cancer is one in which the most progress has been made in applying palliative treatments to extend the life expectancy of those affected. Some of the factors that influence when establishing a forecast are the following:
- Possibility of surgically removing the tumor.
- The stage of the tumor at the time it is detected. As we indicated, this is the main problem.
- The general health of the patient. Since some treatments involve side effects that would be life-threatening for some patients.
- If the prostate cancer has metastasis, that is the spread of the tumor to other parts of the body, such as the liver.
Causes of pancreatic cancer
Although there is no direct cause that can be related to the fact of developing pancreatic cancer, there are several factors that are related to the increased chances of developing it.
- Genetic factor. Family history of parents or grandparents who had cancer can influence whether you have pancreatic cancer. This is explained by changes in DNA, which are transferred from generation to generation.
- Age . The older a person is, the greater the risk of developing cancer. For this reason, a large part of the patients is older than 45 years.
- Sex . Men are more likely to suffer from it. This fact is linked to smoking since, previously, men smoked more than women. This is likely to change over time due to the increase in women who smoke today.
- Race. Although the reasons are unknown, black people tend to be at higher risk of developing this type of tumor.
- Diabetes . People with type 2 diabetes have pancreatic cancer more often, although the causes that could lead to this are unknown.
- The snuff. It is the factor that most influences the possibility of developing pancreatic cancer, doubling the probabilities. Tobacco contains toxic substances that enter the bloodstream and affect the pancreas.
- Overweight. Another factor is usually present in many diseases. People with obesity are more likely to develop a tumor in the pancreas.
- Eating and bad habits . Consuming an excess of red meat, sausages, and generally processed meat, as well as low physical activity or frequent consumption of coffee or alcohol, also add points.
Symptoms of exocrine pancreatic cancer
As we explained before, this is one of the main problems doctors and patients encounter. Pancreatic cancer has no symptoms until it is in an advanced stage, with the possibility of metastasis has occurred, and as a consequence, the chances of cure are meager. We are talking about a patient with terminal pancreatic cancer, which spreads through the body when cancer cannot be controlled.
Some of the symptoms that can be witnessed in case of having exocrine pancreatic cancer are the following:
- Jaundice . It involves the yellowing of the eyes and skin due to an excess of bilirubin produced in the liver.
- Dark urine . In the same way as the last symptom, excess bilirubin is expelled through the urine, causing it to experience a darker tone than usual.
- Feces clear . A blocked bile duct causes Light-colored stools.
- Heat on the skin . When bilirubin accumulates in the skin, causing jaundice, it also creates a sensation of heat.
- Abdominal pain or backache. When a tumor forms in the pancreas, it can expand by putting pressure on other nearby organs.
- Loss of appetite and weight. People with pancreatic cancer may witness a lack of desire that results in unintended weight loss.
- Digestive disorders. Difficulty digesting fatty foods and problems in the transit of food can cause nausea and vomiting.
- Inflamed gallbladder. The tumor can plug the bile duct, causing an accumulation of bile and a dilation of the gallbladder.
Endocrine pancreatic cancer symptoms
When cancer cells form in the endocrine glands of the pancreas, the reaction is usually an excessive secretion of hormones causing various symptoms:
- Gastrinomas . When the tumor is in the endocrine glands, there is an excess production of gastrin that leads to an increase in acid. The excess acid may cause stomach ulcers and bleeding of these. This situation can lead to other symptoms if the patient suffers from anemia, feels tired, and has difficulty breathing normally.
- Glucagonomas. In the same way as the last symptom, a tumor in the pancreas can cause the production of the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels, glucose. This situation can lead to an increase in blood sugar, which translates into the development of diabetes. Also other symptoms that may be experienced are diarrhea and nutrition problems.
- Insulinomas . Just as glucose has the function of adding sugar to the blood, insulin reduces the levels generating the opposite effect. Consequently, the person has low blood sugar levels causing weakness, sweating, and tachycardia.
Treatments for pancreatic cancer
In the case of pancreatic cancer, you can resort to different treatments, although there is no definitive cure. The most common treatments for pancreatic cancer are:
- Chemotherapy . It consists of administering medications orally and intravenously to fight cancer cells present in the body. It is an effective treatment if the tumor has spread to other body parts. Usually, chemotherapy is required on those occasions when the cancer is advanced.
- Surgery. Surgery is applied when it is considered that the tumor can be removed, so it would not be effective in those cases in which pancreatic cancer has spread to other areas of the body. It would be more effective to resort to chemotherapy and radiation.
- Radiation therapy . This treatment focuses on applying radiation doses in the area where the tumor is to reduce cancer cells and prevent their reproduction. On many occasions, it is used together with chemotherapy before and after surgery.
- Treatments ablation or embolization. These are different methods that reduce the symptoms caused by pancreatic cancer and with which cancer cells cannot be eliminated. It is used in cases where the tumor has spread to other areas of the body.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Pancreatic cancer: causes, symptoms, and treatment, we recommend entering our Endocrine System category.
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.