Where Can I Be Evaluated for Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is a form of cancer beginning in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen with several jobs. Enzymes originating from within the pancreas make digestion easier. It also produces hormones that help regulate blood sugar.
As pancreatic cancer develops, cancerous cysts form in and around the pancreas. These tend to disrupt the functions the organ is responsible for. Signs of the problem can be mistaken for common digestive or hormonal disorders and do not typically appear until the cancer is advanced.
How Does Pancreatic Cancer Develop?
People of virtually any age can suffer from pancreatic cancer. Since this cancer typically spreads to other parts of the body before detection, patients must be alert to family history and genetic factors. If an immediate relative had pancreatic cancer, you may be at heightened risk.
As with most cancers, pancreatic cancer is more likely to develop with age. In fact, most patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed after age 65. Other risk factors include personal history of pancreatitis, diabetes, smoking, or obesity. A healthy diet and exercise can moderate your risk.
Even if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, it does not mean you will have it in the future. However, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know about your medical history so an appropriate schedule of cancer screening tests can be arranged for you.
Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can vary and may include:
- Pain centered in the lower abdomen that radiates to the back
- Unexplained, potentially rapid weight loss and appetite loss
- Adult-onset diabetes (especially with no family history of it)
- Unexplained fatigue, sometimes accompanied by depression
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
The specific location of cancerous tumors can influence the types of symptoms felt. Jaundice is common when these growths block the liver’s bile duct. On the other hand, tumors pressing on the small intestine can block the flow of digested food from stomach into intestine.
The onset and severity of pain depends in large part upon which nerves, if any, are affected by the growing cysts. Pain will tend to become more serious as the tumors grow. Treatment can reduce nerve involvement once the cancerous growths have been found.
Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer
Like many forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer may sometimes be removed surgically. However, pancreatic cancer is often not discovered until it has become too severe for surgery. In this case, chemotherapy can reduce the size of cancerous growths and extend the patient’s life.
In addition to these long-term treatments aimed at reduction or elimination of the cancer, there are several optional treatments that may ease associated pain. For example, celiac plexus block consists of injection of pain medication directly into nerves that cause pancreatic cancer pain.
Treatment options for any form of pancreatic cancer depend in large part on the cancer’s level of advancement. Because of the way this cancer grows, it can be difficult to determine its exact size and extent using conventional medical imaging.
Even once treatment is successful, it is essential to maintain contact with your doctor for regular follow-up examinations. Pancreatic cancer is among the cancers most likely to recur later on.
Gramercy Park Digestive Disease Center Offers Hope for Those with Pancreatic Cancer
If you suspect pancreatic cancer, it’s vital to get medical attention right away. Only an expert in disorders of the pancreas can diagnose the issue and determine the best course of treatment. To find out more, contact Gramercy Park Digestive Disease Center.