The term Pancreatic Cancer refers to a malignant tumor that showcases on the pancreas. Actually, the Pancreas is a very vital organ that is about 6 inches long. It’s located inside the lower section of the abdomen. It showcases as a spongy tissue with the shape of a fish as it extends across the abdomen in a horizontal fashion. This vital organ contains endocrine and exocrine glands which usually forms the pancreatic hormones, insulin and hormones that are regularly released into the intestine in order to help the process of digestion.
Now, when the pancreas begins to show signs of uncontrolled cell growth, it’s said to be cancerous. Instead of developing into a normal healthy pancreas tissue, the abnormal cells usually continue to divide and form several lumps of tissues which are also referred to as tumors. These tumors will begin to interfere with the normal functions of the pancreas thereby causing great pains for the individual involved. In most cases, the malignant tumors may continue to expand and spread to other parts of the human body and also destroy lots of healthy tissues. This results to what is known as metastasis which can be very difficult to treat.
Basic Signs and Symptoms of Pancreas Cancer
There are lots of signs and symptoms that showcase when you have a case of Pancreas Cancer. Oftentimes, the disease is termed a silent killer because many of the symptoms don’t actually show up at the initial stages. They usually showcase when the condition is getting worse. Again, the symptoms may also vary according to individuals. In any case, the common signs and symptoms include:
• Pain in the upper abdomen
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea and Vomiting
• Weight Loss
• Painless Jaundice which showcases when the cancer interferes with the liver and bile duct
• Pale or grey stool
• Excess fat in stool
• Trousseau’s Sign which is spontaneous blood clots formed in the blood vessels, superficial veins, and the deep veins of the legs and arms.
Causes of Pancreas Cancer
Pancreas Cancer doesn’t just occur in humans, it normally has a root cause. Ordinarily, the term cancer refers to uncontrolled cell growth that may appear in any organ or part of the human body. Usually, cells are expected to grow, divide and die but when they fail to die, they normally begin to multiply uncontrollably thereby causing the area affected to be cancerous. Pancreas Cancer therefore occurs when the cells of the pancreas multiply exceedingly without dying as expected. A lot of factors may lead to this. Let’s take a look at them.
• DNA Gene Type
When there’s damage or change in DNA, cells can easily experience uncontrolled growth. This can lead to the damage of the genes involved in cell division. Basically, there are four kinds of genes involved in cell division. They include ontogenesis, tumor suppressor genes, suicide genes and DNA repair genes. Usually, the oncogenes prompts the cells to divide as at when due, the tumor suppressor genes let the cells know when not to divide, the suicide genes prompts the cells to kill themselves while DNA repair genes tell the cells to repair a damaged DNA. When there’s a change in these processes, the cells can continue to multiply arbitrarily thereby leading to Pancreas Cancer.
• Family Genes Type
Pancreas Cancer can also be as a result of the prevailing genetic predisposition that is reigning in a particular family gene type. This kind of cancer is usually inherited by every member of the family tree. You might be born with the same genetic mutations that normally lead to the cancer in your family lineage. When this is the case, you’re likely to experience pancreas cancer at some point in your life.
These are substances that are known for damaging DNA and also promote the occurrence of cancer. In most cases, carcinogens are contained in dyes, pesticides and chemicals used in metal refining. They are capable of causing Pancreas Cancer when your body is exposed to them.
The aging process can lead to the increase of cancer causing mutations in the DNA. This can lead to the cancer of the pancreas especially in the lives of elderly individuals above the age of 60.
Some diseases are capable of leading to the cancer of the pancreas especially in the lives of elderly persons. Among such diseases include the scarring of the liver or cirrhosis, stomach infection, diabetes, inflammation of the pancreas, periodontal disease and some others.
• Diets and Habits
Some diets that result in obesity are capable of causing the cancer of the pancreas. For instance, when you eat diets that are low in fruits and vegetable but high in fat and red meat, you’re likely to encounter the cancer of the pancreas in the process.
Again, certain ugly habits such as smoking, drugging and alcoholism can lead to the cancer of the pancreas especially when you’re addicted to them.
Classifications of Pancreas Cancer
Pancreas Cancer is usually classified based on how it affects the endocrine or exocrine functions of the pancreas. The kinds of tumors that affect the exocrine functions of the pancreas are the most common classification of Pancreas Cancer. In most cases, such tumors are termed “cystadenomas”.
Again, tumors that affect the endocrine function of the pancreas are other forms of the Pancreatic Cancer. They are normally known as islet cell tumors or neuroendocrine tumors.
Diagnosing Pancreas Cancer
Pancreas Cancer may be very silent at the initial stages especially when the symptoms are not showing up. However, it’s always good to go for proper check up from time to time whenever you notice unusual signs in your body system. When it comes to diagnosing the cancer of the pancreas, the doctor usually takes the patient through a thorough medical checkup which involves the examination of medical and family histories. This helps a lot in detecting the kind of cancer that is plaguing the pancreas of the individual involved. If there are available signs and symptoms already showing, the doctor will also put them into consideration. Such symptoms may include, weight loss, abdominal pain, back pain, irritability, gall bladder enlargement, digestive problems, blood clot, jaundice, lack of appetite and so on.
In most cases, the doctor will carry out several urine, stool and blood tests in order to detect the actual stage of the cancer in your pancreas. This will help a lot when the treatment begins. Several imaging tests such as ultrasound, abdominal computerized tomography and others may also be conducted.
During the diagnosis, the actual stage of the Pancreas Cancer will be detected. This helps a lot in knowing how best to go about the treatment process.
Treatment Options for Pancreas Cancer
Like every other disease, Pancreas Cancer can be treated. However, the treatment is usually faster and easier when the disease is detected at its initial stages. Oftentimes, the treatment process may take longer period when the disease is not detected on time.
Actually, there’s no single treatment option for any kind of cancer. This is usually the case when the disease is not found on time. When it comes to Pancreas Cancer, the treatment is mainly possible when it’s detected at its earlier stages. There are three basic treatment options usually engaged. Let’s examine them.
This involves a careful removal of the tumors from the pancreas. This is usually easier when the disease has not spread to other parts of the body. 3 main surgical procedures are usually engaged. They include Whipple procedure, Distal Pancreatectomy and Total Pancreatectomy. The Whipple procedure is used when the cancer is at the head of the pancreas. Here, the pancreas head or the entire organ is removed along with a portion of the duodenum, stomach and other tissues. This procedure is usually very complex and risky.
When using Distal Pancreatectomy, the tail of the pancreas is usually removed if that’s the actual point of the tumor. It’s usually used to treat islet cell tumors.
Total Pancreatectomy involves the complete removal of the pancreas with the spleen. This can lead to diabetes since your body will not be producing insulin anymore.
Palliative Surgery is also another kind of surgery that is used in treating Pancreas Cancer. This is usually used when the pancreas cannot be removed.
This involves the use of chemicals that interfere with cell division process in treating the cancer of the pancreas. The treatment targets the dividing cells. It’s mainly used as a treatment option when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
This is also known as radiotherapy. It aims at destroying the pancreas cancer through the use of high energy rays which are focused on the cancer cells. This usually causes great damage to the molecules that make up the cancer cells and also forces them to die.
In all, Pancreas Cancer as seen from the above is real. It can only be treated easily when it’s still at the initial stages. However, prevention is usually better than cure. There’s every need for you to quit smoking, alcoholism and every other habit that may lead to the condition.