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Pancreatic Cancer: What Is It, Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment?

Updated on 23 November 2022

Pancreatic cancer occurs in the tissues of the pancreas which is located behind the stomach. It usually occurs when the genetic mutation leads to the abnormal multiplication of the cells and uncontrolled growth. This might create a mass of tissue, and this results in cancer. Due to its location, it is hard to detect cancer at its initial stage.

Two Types of Pancreatic Cancer

There are two types of pancreatic cancer. They are:

  • Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma: It is the most common type of pancreatic cancer, which takes place in the exocrine cells of the Pancreas.
  • Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumours: It is a rare type of pancreatic cancer that occurs in endocrine cells, which release hormones that affect mood as well as metabolism. 

What Are The Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are not obvious until it reaches the advanced stage. Hence, there are no early signs of pancreatic cancer. Below are some of the symptoms mentioned, though it varies for each individual.

  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark or Brown urine
  • Lower back pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Nausea

In addition to this, pancreatic cancer can affect your sugar level and can lead to diabetes.

What Are The Causes of Pancreatic Cancer?

When the cells begin to grow abnormally within the pancreas, turning into tumours, it is referred to as Pancreatic cancer. However, the exact cause of this abnormal cell growth is still unclear. In a usual case, cells grow and die in average numbers. But, in the case of Pancreas cancer, there is an increased number of cell growth, which takes over the healthy cells. However, there are a few external reasons associated with the cause of cancer, such as:

  • Family History

According to studies, 10% of people have pancreatic cancer because of their family history. 

  • Excess Alcohol Consumption   

Consuming three to four alcoholic drinks a day can increase your chances of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis.

  • Race

According to a study in 2018, pancreatic cancer was prevalent among Black people. This might be due to socioeconomic and genetic factors and a mix of lifestyles. 

  • Diet

Though the exact link between diet and pancreas cancer is yet to be discovered, doctors say that having processed or red meat, excess sugar, fried foods, and even cholesterol may accelerate the chances of getting pancreatic cancer. 

  • Tobacco

Smoking or Chewing tobacco may contribute to increased chances of having cancer.

What Are The Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer?

The doctor at the best cancer treatment hospitals may examine you initially and ask about the symptoms. Along with reviewing you, they will check your medical history. They might ask you for a biopsy to extract a tissue sample from your pancreas if required. This will help them suggest the best possible treatment. The main objective is to stop the cancerous cells from spreading. The primary treatment options are as follows:

  • Targeted Therapy

This method involves medication and therapy that only targets the damaged cells. Thus, other healthy cells remain unharmed.

  • Chemotherapy

Administering anticancer drugs can kill cancer cells and stop their spread. Knowing how to prepare yourself for chemotherapy can help you as well.

  • Immunotherapy

In this method of immunotherapy - Monoclonal Antibodies or the Adoptive T-Cells inhibitor are used to target cancer.

  • Surgery

This method involves removing a part of the pancreas. Surgery is not usually recommended as it removes only the original tumour but might not stop cancer from spreading. 

  • Radiation Therapy

Doctors use X-Rays and other high-energy beams to kill cancer cells, which also prevent them from spreading to other parts.

It is crucial to consult a doctor if you have the slightest doubt about cancer, as pancreatic cancer responds best to early-stage treatments. 

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