Pancreas is a major organ of the digestive system that lies behind the stomach. It plays an important role in the metabolism of the body. It is divided into two parts - exocrine and endocrine. The exocrine pancreas secretes pancreatic juice that aids in digestion of food in the small intestine, whereas the endocrine pancreas produces an insulin hormone that regulates the glucose metabolism in the body.
Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor in the tissues of the pancreas. Also called exocrine cancer, it is more common among males and in elderly people. Certain factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, diet, gingivitis, chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreatic tissues), and diabetes increases the risk of this cancer. It is observed that about 6-10% of the people affected by pancreatic cancer have a family history of cancer of the pancreas.
Indicators of Pancreatic Cancer
An early stage of pancreatic cancer either doesn't cause symptoms or it causes symptoms that are often misunderstood for other diseases. Symptoms appear when the tumor grows to such a size that it disturbs the normal functioning of the stomach, liver, and other adjacent organs. Hence, timely diagnosis of this cancer is very rare. Cancer of this exocrine gland is usually diagnosed in its final stages, when it is too late to cure. Thus, it is sometimes referred to as a silent killer. Here are some of the warning signs that will help in diagnosing this medical condition at the right time.
- This cancer causes a mild pain in the abdomen. People may experience back pain or sometimes both. Pain is caused due to the spread of tumors to the nearby nerve tissues surrounding the affected tissues. Pain is either continuous or it occurs intermittently.
- One of the notable signs of this medical condition is jaundice (yellowing of skin and sclera), which is characterized by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. The affected people whose tumors are located in the head of pancreas experience jaundice symptoms. It is caused due to the obstruction of the bile duct that results in the abnormal synthesis of bilirubin (bile pigment).
- The pancreatic tumors block normal circulation of the digestive enzymes, hence, disturbing digestion of foods in the small intestine. Thus, the affected people have a problem in digesting fatty foods, proteins and carbohydrates, and often experience digestive problems.
- Loss of weight is observed on the onset of this disease. It is caused due to less consumption of food because of loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Weight loss is associated with other symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea.
- It is often observed that the person with pancreatic tumor experiences increased fatigue and depression.
Other remarkable signs of pancreatic cancer are enlargement of liver and spleen, muscle spasms, chills, and blood clots. If an individual has experienced any of the symptoms listed above, then he/she should consult and seek advice from a physician. Whatever the result may be; it is always better to diagnose diseases in their early stages and take further precautions. Treatment of this disease (in its early stages) is done with medications, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biological therapy. In order to reduce its risks, one should follow healthy eating habits with correctly planned diet, control body weight, and go for regular exercise.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.