Pancreatic cancer is caused by an abnormal growth within the large digestive system gland.
The pancreas is a gland in the abdomen that secretes digestive enzymes into the gut and other hormones, including insulin, into the blood. Around 50% of all new cases of pancreatic cancer occur in over-75’s and it’s less common in people under 40. The most common type is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, but there are several other types, which may be treated differently. The cause is not clear but risk factors include ageing, tobacco use, obesity and a history of other conditions, including diabetes, stomach ulcers, chronically inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis) and Helicobacter infection.
In about one in ten cases, pancreatic cancer is inherited. Certain genetic disorders, including Lynch or Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, increase your chances of pancreatitis, thus increasing your risk of pancreatic cancer. If your doctor feels you’re at risk, they may recommend regular tests.
Symptoms for Pancreatic Cancer
There may be no symptoms early on, but then you may notice back or mid-abdomen pain, worse if lying down or after eating. Nausea, altered bowel movement, unexplained weight loss, indigestion, fever and blood clots may occur. Signs of duct blockage include jaundice, pale faeces and dark urine. Symptoms of diabetes, such as thirst and peeing frequently, can indicate failure of the pancreatic insulin production.
After a discussion and examination, including checking your abdomen for lumps and your skin for jaundice, your GP will organise blood and urine tests and refer you for an urgent specialist opinion. They will organise diagnostic tests, some of which allow a biopsy, where a sample is taken from a suspected tumour.
Treating Pancreatic Cancer
Treating pancreatic cancer can be difficult as it is often not detected until it is fairly advanced or has spread. The type of treatment will depend on the cell type of the cancer, how advanced it is (‘staging’), where it is within the pancreas, how far and to where it may have spread; as well as your age and general condition.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, or a combination of these, are all used in managing pancreatic cancer.
Surgery can be painful and recovery can be difficult, your bowel will temporarily stop working so you may not be able to eat or drink straight away. You may also be given pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy tablets, to help you digest food.
Tests You May Need
- Ultrasound, CT or MRI scans, sometimes combined with a PET scan, to produce detailed 3D images highlighting organ shape and function.
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) — a type of MRI scan looking at the pancreas and the ducts around it.
- Endoscopic ultrasound and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) use as an endoscope into the gastrointestinal tract and dye into the pancreatic duct to look for blockages.
- Laparoscopy – a thin flexible camera is inserted through the abdominal wall, allowing viewing and biopsy, of any lump.
4 Fixes for Constipation
- Increase fluids. Drink eight mugs a day or more of clear fluids, but avoid alcohol. Water, teas and some fruit juices are good.
- Increase fibre. Fibre keeps water in your motions — eat wheat bran, pulses, such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, wholegrain food versions and potatoes with their skin on.
- Increase activity. A daily walk has been shown to improve bowel mobility and reduce constipation, as well as being generally good for most bodily functions.
- Maintain a regular routine. Ensure a regular time and place to go to the loo, allow time but don’t delay the urge. Raise your feet on a low stool while on the toilet.
E361 – Pancreatic Cancer – www.diabetic.today