Growth of cancer cells in the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in the upper-middle part of the abdomen that produces intestinal enzymes (juices) to help digest food, and insulin to control blood sugar. This cancer usually affects adults ages 35 to 70, and men more than women.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Usually no symptoms occur in early stages of cancer.
Weight loss. Loss of appetite.
Pain in the back or upper abdomen.
Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes). Intense itching may occur with jaundice.
Nausea, vomiting, and problems with digestion.
Depression, though not caused by cancer, may occur.
Unknown. It may be to be a combination of hereditary factors and environmental factors.
RISK INCREASES WITH
Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Genetic factors. It is more common in African-American persons than in white, Asian, or Hispanic persons.
Excessive alcohol use.
Diet high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables.
Obesity and lack of physical activity.
Exposure to industrial chemicals, such as urea, naphthalene, or benzidine.
Certain hereditary disorders.
No specific preventive measures. To reduce cancer risks: get recommended screening tests, maintain healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and don't smoke.
The diagnosis often comes too late for effective treatment. Survival for more than 1 or 2 years is unlikely. However, symptoms can be relieved or controlled.
Research into causes and treatment continues. There is hope for improved treatment and a cure.
Spread (metastasis) of cancer to other places in the body. This has often already occurred by the time of diagnosis.
Malnutrition (loss of appetite and inability to eat).
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask questions about any symptoms. A number of medical tests will be done. The tests help in diagnosing the cancer, and then determine if it has spread (staging).
Treatment varies and depends on location and size of tumor, any spread of the cancer, your health, age, and preferences. Treatment may include chemotherapy (anticancer drugs) and/or radiation therapy, surgery, and biologic therapy.
Chemotherapy uses drugs and radiation therapy uses radiation to attack the cancer cells. Biologic therapy uses the body's immune system to fight cancer.
Surgery may be performed to remove the tumor if the cancer has not spread in the body.
Treatment may involve steps to relieve symptoms and make you comfortable, rather than treating the cancer.
Counseling may help you cope with having cancer.
To learn more: The American Cancer Society, 800-ACS-2345, website: www.cancer.org; or the National Cancer Institute at 800-4-CANCER, website: www.nci.nih.gov.
Your health care provider may prescribe:
Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs).
Pancreatic enzymes to replace those that the pancreas cannot manufacture.
Sedatives for sleep if needed.
Remain as active as you can. It helps your quality of life.
Reduced-fat diet may be recommended.
Loss of appetite may make eating difficult. Try eating several small meals each day. Choose foods easy to digest and have healthy snacks available.