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Pancreatic Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Explained

Pancreatic Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Explained

Pancreatic cancer is a disease characterized by developing malignant cells within the pancreas, an essential organ located deep within the abdomen. It is often challenging to detect in its early stages, which is most treatable, as it typically does not show symptoms until it has spread to other organs.

But there is nothing to worry about. There are several treatment options for pancreatic cancer, depending on the extent and stage of the disease. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or even a combination of these. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available to help you make informed decisions about you and your loved one’s health.

Understanding Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is essential for digestion and hormone regulation. It produces enzymes that aid in breaking down food and hormones that help control sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer is a malignant neoplasm that develops in the pancreas, an important organ in the abdomen. It arises when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a tumor. This form of cancer is known for its aggressive nature and tendency to spread rapidly to nearby tissues and distant organs, making it difficult to detect in its early stages.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer causes are mostly unknown. Doctors and medical experts are consistently working to determine the causes of pancreatic cancer. However, certain factors have come to light. These factors are as follows:

Aging

Pancreatic cancer is most frequently diagnosed in people within the age range of 65 to 74, according to the ACS.

Smoking

Tobacco use poses a substantial risk when it comes to pancreatic cancer. Individuals who smoke are at a significantly higher risk of developing than those who do not.

Obesity

Maintaining a steady, healthy weight is crucial to reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer. Evidence suggests that individuals who are overweight or obese face a higher likelihood of developing this disease.

Congenital Factors

A family history of certain genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, increases the risk of developing the disease. Inherited conditions, such as hereditary pancreatitis and Lynch syndrome, are also linked to a higher risk.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis can raise the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The underlying causes of chronic pancreatitis can vary, including alcohol abuse, gallstones, and certain genetic conditions.

Diabetes

Chronic diabetes, especially when diagnosed later in life, has been associated with the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Occupational Exposures

Continuous occupational exposure to specific chemicals utilized in the dry cleaning and metalworking sectors can potentially increase an individual's susceptibility to pancreatic cancer.

See Also: Pancreatic Surgery Types | Pancreatic Cancer Surgery - Anchorage, Alaska

Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is often a combination of the following signs & symptoms.

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Digestive problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Consistent changes in stool color
  • Changes in blood sugar levels
  • Blood clotting

It's important to understand that these symptoms are not exclusive to pancreatic cancer and can also be caused by other conditions.

Possible Complications of Pancreatic Cancer

The side effects of pancreatic cancer can give rise to various complications due to its aggressive nature and impact on surrounding tissues and organs. Some potential complications include:

  • Metastasizing
  • Obstruction of the bile duct or duodenum
  • Malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Pancreatic pseudocyst
  • Thromboembolism
  • Pain and discomfort
  • The emotional and psychological impact

Not every patient with pancreatic cancer will experience these complications, and the specific complications can vary depending on the cancer stage and individual factors.

Treatment & Diagnosis Options for Pancreatic Cancer

Diagnosis Options

Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer involves several steps. The doctor begins by evaluating the patient's medical history, conducting a thorough physical examination, and assessing any symptoms that may indicate pancreatic cancer.

Imaging tests, including CT scans, MRIs, and endoscopic ultrasounds, are then performed to obtain detailed images of the pancreas. These imaging techniques help visualize the tumor's size, location, and extent and any potential spread to nearby structures.

Later, a biopsy is conducted to confirm the presence of cancerous cells and determine the stage of pancreatic cancer. This typically involves obtaining a tissue sample from the pancreas. The collected tissue sample is then examined to identify cancer cells and provide important information about the type and characteristics of cancer.

See Also: Detecting Pancreatic Cancer: What You Need to Know

Treatment Options

The following are the pancreatic cancer treatment options.

  • Surgical procedures
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Palliative care

For more information, visit Far North Surgery.

When to Seek a Doctor?

If you have any concerning unexplained symptoms mentioned above, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Since various conditions can have similar symptoms, your doctor will assess your health condition properly and the possibility of pancreatic cancer.

Choose Far North Surgery for Better Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Take control of your health and choose excellence in surgical care!  Contact Far North Surgery today and experience the expertise of our highly-skilled, board-certified general surgeons in Anchorage, AK. Whether you're facing pancreatic cancer or any other surgical need, our team is dedicated to providing top-grade medical care with compassion and precision. Schedule your appointment with us today to receive the best care.

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