Most pancreatic cancer forms in cells of the gland which produce enzymes (exocrine cells). These tumors do not secrete hormones and do not cause signs or symptoms. This makes it hard to diagnose this type of pancreatic cancer early.
The pancreas gland lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. There are two kinds of cells in the pancreas. Exocrine pancreatic cells make enzymes that are released into the small intestine to help the body digest food.
Neuroendocrine pancreatic cells (such as islet cells) make several hormones, including insulin and glucagon, that help control sugar levels in the blood.
Risk factors for Pancreatic cancer
- Being very overweight.
- Having a personal history of diabetes or chronic pancreatitis.
- Having a family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.
- Having certain hereditary conditions
Signs of Pancreatic cancer
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
- Light-colored stools.
- Dark urine.
- Pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
- Loss of appetite.
- Feeling very tired.
Diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer
The common modalities for diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer include.
- Ultrasound Abdomen
- CT Abdomen
- MRI Abdomen
- Endoscopy with endoscopic ultrasound if required
- Blood tumour markers
Following diagnosis the tumour is pre-operatively staged.
Subsequently a multidisciplinary meeting between the Surgeons, Physicians and the oncologists charts the best way forward for the patient which may include surgery with a curative intent or palliation.
This may be combined with chemotherapy or radiation depending on the condition of the patient and the disease.
In many instances the treatment has to be tailored for each individual patient.