When a person develops pancreatic cancer, it is most often an exocrine pancreatic cancer, meaning that the cancer has originated from tumors located specifically in the exocrine cells. Endocrine cancer is the other form of pancreatic cancer, but it is the rarer form. Although both of these cancers are pancreatic, the symptoms and treatment for them is different. We’ll be taking a look at exocrine pancreatic cancer because it is far more common and prevalent. Treatment and response for this kind of pancreatic cancer always depends on the stage at which the cancer is at, rather than the exact type.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer are similar to those for other kinds of cancer, but there are some distinctions. All the usual risks are present, such as age, gender (men are more prone), race (more prevalent in African Americans) and genetic history. Other, more distinct risks include obesity, diabetes and stomach problems. Those who experience any of these issues earlier in life are simply more at risk for developing pancreatic cancer. Additionally, both smoking and drinking have been shown to have a correlation to pancreatic cancer in many studies. Cirrhosis of the liver, which is a result of hepatitis or heavy alcohol consumption, can often lead to pancreatic cancer. Long-term pancreas inflammation, also known as chronic pancreatitis, is also a high risk factor.
Pancreatic cancer is very hard to detect in early stages, unfortunately. Because its location is tricky, your doctor cannot easily feel for irregularities in the pancreas when you undergo a yearly exam. And even more unfortunately, symptoms don’t tend to manifest themselves until the cancer has already spread to other organs. The survival rate with pancreatic cancer is sadly very low for these reasons. There are, however, some signs that you can look for, especially if you have any kind of family history of pancreatic cancer. Jaundice, stomach or abdomen pain, digestive problems, blood clots, or extreme weight loss can all be signs of potential pancreas problems.
Treatment for pancreatic cancer tends to follow the typical regimen. If surgery is possible, it’s the first course of action, but if not, radiation and chemotherapy will be employed. Pain tends to be a very serious problem with pancreatic cancer because it can go undetected for so long. Inflammation and discomfort can have a way of sneaking up, so as with other forms of cancer, it’s encouraged that you vocalize your pain levels to your doctor at all times so that management can be as effective as possible.
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