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What is Pancreatic Cancer?

The development of malignant (cancerous) cells in the pancreas is known as pancreatic cancer. It can occur either in the exocrine (ducts) or endocrine (hormone- or enzyme-producing) part of the pancreas. It occurs more in men than women.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Typically, pancreatic cancer is detected only in the advanced stages due to a lack of specific indications. Some common signs and symptoms are:

It also shows some symptoms similar to that of jaundice.

What are the main causes?

The common reasons that increase the risk of pancreatic cancer are: 

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Doctors can diagnose pancreatic cancer by various tests, such as :

  • Blood tests  
    They help in detecting the level of bilirubin, which is produced by the liver. This will give the doctors the knowledge about the functioning of liver or signs of jaundice. They may also detect increased levels of pancreatic hormones and enzymes.
  • Biopsy
    To check for the presence of cancer cells in the pancreas.
  • Ultrasound
    To assess the size and spread of cancer in the abdomen.
  • CT scan
    It helps in the detection of cancer, which may have also spread to the nearby organs surrounding the pancreas.
  • MRI 
    It helps in giving proper images of the bile and pancreatic ducts to the doctors.
  • Tumour marker tests  
    Some of the tumour markers are CA-19-9, and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA).

After the diagnosis, the disease is treated by:

  • Surgery
    It is the most preferable method, where possible. Cancerous portions are removed surgically when it hasn’t spread too much. 
  • Chemotherapy
    Drugs are administered orally or via the intravenous route to kill the cancerous cells. It has some side effects like hair loss, fatigue, bruises, mouth sores etc.
  • Others
    Some techniques of ablation (techniques that help in the destruction of tumours instead of their removal) – cryosurgery, microwave thermotherapy, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) etc.
  1. Medicines for Pancreatic Cancer
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  1. American Cancer Society [Internet] Atlanta, Georgia, U.S; About Pancreatic Cancer.
  2. National Cancer Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Pancreatic Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version.
  3. Reynolds RB, Folloder J. Clinical Management of Pancreatic Cancer. J Adv Pract Oncol. 2014 Sep-Oct;5(5):356-64. Epub 2014 Sep 1. PMID: 26114016
  4. PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Pancreatic Cancer Treatment. (PDQ®): Health Professional Version. 2019 Mar 28. In: PDQ Cancer Information Summaries [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002-.
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Pancreatic cancer.

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