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Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms in Women

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms in Women

In most cases, symptoms of pancreatic cancer in women are observed only when the disease is already at an advanced stage. Read this article to know more about this topic.
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
Pancreas is a gland found in the abdominal cavity. It lies in the back part of the stomach behind other digestive organs small intestine, gallbladder, etc. It plays a major role in the digestion process. It releases important digestive juices that are used for breaking down food. It also produces insulin hormone which is essential for keeping the blood sugar level in check. Pancreatic cancer develops on the tissues of this gland. Like any other cancer, the cause is genetic mutation of its cells. It results in abnormal growth of the cells and increase in the lifespan of the cells. The cells thus accumulated lead to formation of cancerous tumor inside the pancreas.
Symptoms
The worst part is that the symptoms in women are not visible as soon as the growth of the tumor starts. They are observed when the size of the tumor is substantially big. Moreover, the onset of the symptoms depends on the location of the tumor. If it grows in the head of the pancreas, then symptoms can be seen sooner than when its location is body or tail of the gland.
As the pancreas is an integral part of the digestive system and is located very close to other digestive organs, lots of problems arises in the gastrointestinal tract due to the cancerous growth. Pain is felt in the upper part of the abdominal cavity. It is not a constant pain and occurs intermittently. The intensity of the pain also varies from time to time. When the pain is severe, then it may get extended to the back as well. Stomach bloating is quite common in this condition. It gives a sense of fullness after eating even a small meal. The bloated feeling often leads to loss of appetite and nausea.
As the pancreas fails to release enough fat digestive enzymes, the fat in the foods are not digested and are excreted as fatty stools. If the duct that secretes bile into the intestine get blocked by the tumor, then it causes jaundice. It is identified with yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye, pale colored stool and dark color urine. It may also cause severe itching on the skin.
At the end stage, as the pancreas cancer grows and spread, it starts affecting the overall health of the patients. During this time, there is severe weight loss for unknown reason. They are tired, fatigued and depressed all the time. As the production of insulin in the pancreas stops due to cancer, blood sugar levels increase and they tend to develop diabetes.
Treatment
Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to treat as it is mostly detected at a later stage. The main aim is to restrict the growth and damaging effects of the tumor. When tumor growth is confined within the pancreas only, it is eliminated with the help of surgery. In other cases where surgical treatment is not possible, it is treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In chemotherapy, drugs that can destroy the cancerous cells are administered into the body. They are either injected directly into the veins through injections or given orally. Chemotherapy is particularly effective when the cancer has affected the internal organs which are close to the pancreas but is not so effective if it has spread to other parts of the body. In radiation therapy, malignant cells are exposed to ionizing radiation in order to destroy them. Radiation therapy is also used at the time of the surgical removal of cancerous tissue to prevent its recurrence.
Research studies have found that in a very small percentage of women, early signs of pancreas cancer are observed. These symptoms show up when the cancer is still at a curable stage. Usually, they are noticed almost 6 months before the onset of other prominent symptoms. Like, some women suffer from acute pancreatitis during this time. Some of them complain that they do not like the taste of their favorite foods or beverages. They feel a sense of fullness soon after having meals.. Since, these warning signs are non-specific, it is very difficult to detect the actual problem.