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Pancreatic cancer


Pancreatic cancer is type of cancer where a malignant tumour is formed within the pancreas. This type of cancer is quite common nowadays due to gradual increase in environmental pollution. Chance of survival in case of pancreatic cancer is almost nil and no cases have been reported so far where a person with pancreatic cancer has survived for more than 5 years. Most of the pancreatic tumours are adenocarcinomas whereas the rest are neuroendocrine tumours, serous cystadenomas, etc.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are not so specific and as a result early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer becomes very difficult. The common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include epigastric pain in the abdomen which is transmitted to the back and a forward-bend sitting posture may provide some relief. Other symptoms include loss of weight, loss of apetite, obstruction in the biliary tree and painless jaundice.

Jaundice occurs when the tumour magnifies to such an extent that it obstructs the bile duct. Trousseau’s sign is another symptom of this disease where blood clots are formed in the portal vessels.

What are the factors responsible for causing pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer can be caused due to the following factors: –

  • Ageing
  • Gingivitis
  • Male gender
  • Smoking or consuming tobacco in any form
  • African ethnicity
  • High protein diet
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Accidental exposure to high levels of dyes, pesticides and other carcinogenic chemicals
  • Heredity

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

Painless jaundice and distended gallbladder are some of the prime diagnostic features of pancreatic cancer. Liver function test may confirm obstruction of bile duct. Carbohydrate antigen 19.9 (CA 19-9) is a tumour marker that can be used in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Other diagnostic procedures include Endoscopic ultrasound, genetic and biochemical screening tests, etc.

Treatment of pancreatic cancer: -

There is no medical treatment as such which can cure the disease completely. Surgical removal of tumours in the pancreas in the early stages might be effective in some cases. The Whipple procedure is one of the surgical methods where the head of the pancreas is operated. Chemotherapeutic drugs such as erlotinib, gemcitabine and fluorouracil can also be effective. In the year 2006, a vaccine for pancreatic cancer has been discovered which has not yet been introduced in the market till now!


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