Pancreas is a secretory organ located behind the stomach and is responsible for producing the essential enzymes for digestion and hormones necessary for the regulation of blood sugar. It is located on the posterior abdominal wall and is located in the flow path of many blood and lymph vessels. Pancreatic cancer develops in the area where the cells lining the pancreatic ducts are. It is usually seen in the head of the pancreas and may be the first sign of jaundice due to its close proximity with bile ducts.
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are appetite loss, weight loss, slowly developing jaundice, obstruction in the stomach outlet, and pain. Pancreatitis attack in the absence of gallstones or alcohol use may also be the first sign of pancreatic cancer. The pain felt on the back that can be seen due to pancreatic cancer is generally a harbinger of the local spread of the disease and is accepted as a sign that the disease is progressing. It is seen that smoking is an enhancer and some genetic factors and mutations catalyze the development of the disease. In cases where the cancer is located in the head of the pancreas, jaundice without pain and light-colored feces are observed. Pancreatic cancer could progress without showing any symptoms. Since it could look like a simple stomach complaint, early diagnosis is hard. When it starts showing symptoms, the tumor is already moved outside of the pancreas and it becomes too late for a successful treatment. Therefore, early diagnosis and a regular doctor checkup is very important in pancreatic cancer. Symptoms such as increased abdominal pain after meals, gas pains, bloating, vomiting and loss of appetite, increased abdominal pain when moving to a horizontal position, dark urine, general weakness, liver and gall bladder enlargement, itching are among the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and it is very important to consult your doctor without delay.
Pancreatic cancer is hard to diagnose and treat. It is not an easily and early detectable cancer type. To diagnose pancreatic cancer blood tests and scanning techniques are used. The treatment varies depending on the stage of the disease, the location of the cancer in the pancreas, age of the patient, general condition, and patient’s choices. An efficient medication could not be developed against pancreatic cancer therefore, only surgical methods are of choice. The disease generally spreads rapidly and is mostly seen at the age of 50 and over, and early diagnosis is considered as the most important factor for the treatment of the disease. When the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the results are successful with especially Whipple surgery. In cases where the disease is spread to distant organs like the liver, the basic applied method is chemotherapy. Avoiding substances that trigger cancer such as cigarettes and alcohol, eating healthy, getting rid of excessive weight, and not neglecting regular checkups if there are diabetes and cancer in the family are the ways to avoid pancreatic cancer.
In pancreatic cancer, if the tumor is removable, surgery, which is the only method having a chance to treat this disease, must be performed. Although the tumor is completely removed by surgery, recurrence of cancer can often occur. Chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy might be applied to some patients prior to surgery. Giving chemotherapy before surgery might be preferred due to the long postoperative rehabilitation period. If the tumor is spread to the proximal blood vessels and other tissues in regionally progressed pancreatic cancer, it is not suitable for surgical treatment. In these types of regionally progressed cancers, surgical methods are used only to open blocked bile ducts or bypass the small intestine blocked by cancer. The standard treatment options for regionally progressed cancers are chemotherapy and/or chemotherapy alongside radiotherapy. Sometimes these treatments could shrink the cancer and make it possible for the tumor to be removed by surgery. While pancreatic cancer primarily spreads to the liver and inside the abdomen, spread to lungs, bones, and the brain is also seen.