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Symptoms And Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer!

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, MS - General Surgery, Fellowship - American Society of Transplant surgeons
General Surgeon, Bangalore  •  16years experience
Symptoms And Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer!

The pancreas has an important role in the body. It releases enzymes for digestion andhormones for managing blood sugar. Pancreatic cancer hampers these functions andstarts to affect the health of the patient even before cancer spreads to nearby organs. However, the real concern with pancreatic cancer lies in its rapid spread. In fact, ittypically spreads to nearby organs quite fast. Moreover, it is quite difficult to detect it inthe early stages.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer:

  1. Jaundice: Jaundice symptoms like yellowing of skin and eyes may appear in theprimary stages of cancer if it begins near the common bile duct. However, if itbegins at the opposite end, it would manifest only in the advanced stages.Pancreatic cancer spreading to the liver can also cause jaundice.
  2. Back or Belly Pain: Back pain or abdominal pain is common in patients suffering from pancreatic cancer. The cancerous part of the pancreas can grow large andstart impinging upon the nearby organs. This causes pain. If cancer spreads tosurrounding nerves it may also cause pain.
  3. Weight loss: Weight loss accompanied by poor appetite is a very commonsymptom of pancreatic cancer.
  4. Nausea and Vomiting: If cancer spreads to the stomach, it can create a partialblockade for food resulting in nausea and vomiting.
  5. Liver Enlargement: Pancreatic cancer may lead to enlargement of the liver ifcancer has spread to that organ. The doctor can detect an enlargement bypalpating the edge of the liver.

Indeed, there may also be other symptoms of pancreatic cancer, but none of these isdefinitive. In fact, by the time the symptoms begin cancer might have spread far andwide. However, for the fortunate one, pain or jaundice symptoms may start early. Intheir case, treatment can be started early.

Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer:

Though pancreatic cancer is hard to cure, a complex surgical procedure known as the Whipple procedure can extend the life of patients significantly. It is also called as Pancreaticoduodenectomy. In this procedure, doctors remove the wide part of pancreas lying adjacent to the duodenum. However, it is not only the pancreas portion that is removed, but other parts like the duodenum, the gallbladder, a part of the bile duct, and also a part of the stomach is also removed. After the surgery, the surgeon reconnects the rest of the intestine, bile duct, and the pancreas.

Who Can Undergo Surgery for pancreatic surgery?

Everybody is not fit for Pancreatic Surgery. It is estimated that just about 20% of patients can undergo this procedure. In most of these patients, cancer has not yet spread to major blood vessels and organs like lungs, liver, stomach, etc. To identify candidates for this procedure, doctors may even resort to testing. Among those eligible for the Whipple procedure, some can undergo laparoscopic procedure while others may need to go through an open procedure.

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