Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic Cancer: Practice Essentials, Background, Pathophysiology

Pancreatic cancer

  1. PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Pancreatic Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Health Professional Version. November 12, 2019. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  2. [Guideline] National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. NCCN. Available at http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/pancreatic.pdf. Version 1.2020 — November 26, 2019; Accessed: January 10, 2020.

  3. Conroy T, Desseigne F, Ychou M, et al. FOLFIRINOX versus gemcitabine for metastatic pancreatic cancer. N Engl J Med. 2011 May 12. 364(19):1817-25. [Medline].

  4. Von Hoff DD, Arena FP, Chiorean EG, Infante JR, Moore MJ, Seay TE, et al. Randomized phase III study of weekly nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine versus gemcitabine alone in patients with metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas (MPACT). J Clin Oncol 30: 2012 (suppl 34; abstr LBA148), Presented January 25, 2013 at the 2013 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, San Francisco, CA.

  5. Mulcahy N. FDA Approves Nab-Paclitaxel for Pancreatic Cancer. Medscape [serial online]. Available at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/810564. September 06, 2013; Accessed: September 09, 2018.

  6. Kulke MH, Blaszkowsky LS, Ryan DP, Clark JW, Meyerhardt JA, Zhu AX, et al. Capecitabine plus erlotinib in gemcitabine-refractory advanced pancreatic cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2007 Oct 20. 25(30):4787-92. [Medline].

  7. Neuhaus P, Riess H, Post S. CONKO-001:Final results of the randomized, prospective multicenter phase III trial of adjuvant chemotherapy with gemcitabine versus observation in patients with resected pancratic cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2008. 26(15S):204s(abstract LBA4504).

  8. Conroy T, Hammel P, Hebbar M, et al, Canadian Cancer Trials Group and the Unicancer-GI–PRODIGE Group. FOLFIRINOX or Gemcitabine as Adjuvant Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer. N Engl J Med. 2018 Dec 20. 379 (25):2395-2406. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  9. Nelson R. Best Survival Ever in Resectable Pancreatic Cancer. Medscape Medical News. Available at https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/897600. June 04, 2018; Accessed: January 10, 2020.

  10. Cancer Stat Facts: Pancreatic Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Available at https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/pancreas.html. Accessed: January 10, 2020.

  11. Cancer Facts & Figures 2020. American Cancer Society. Available at https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2020/cancer-facts-and-figures-2020.pdf. Accessed: January 10, 2020.

  12. Maisonneuve P, Lowenfels AB. Epidemiology of pancreatic cancer: an update. Dig Dis. 2010. 28 (4-5):645-56. [Medline].

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  14. Bosetti C, Rosato V, Li D, Silverman D, Petersen GM, et al. Diabetes, antidiabetic medications, and pancreatic cancer risk: an analysis from the International Pancreatic Cancer Case-Control Consortium. Ann Oncol. 2014 Oct. 25 (10):2065-72. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  15. Li D, Morris JS, Liu J, Hassan MM, Day RS, Bondy ML, et al. Body mass index and risk, age of onset, and survival in patients with pancreatic cancer. JAMA. 2009 Jun 24. 301(24):2553-62. [Medline]. [Full Text].

Source: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/280605-overview

Types of Pancreatic Cancer – Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic tumors are either exocrine or neuroendocrine (endocrine) tumors. This is the type of cell they start in. Knowing the type of tumor is important because each type acts differently and responds to different treatments.

Within these types, each tumor’s biology is different. Molecular profiling gives patients information about their tumor’s biology.

Every pancreatic tumor is different. Patients who receive treatment their tumor’s biological characteristics have better outcomes. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends molecular profiling of your tumor to help determine the best treatment options.

Pancreatic Exocrine Tumors

About 93 percent of pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumors. They start in the exocrine cells of the pancreas, which produce enzymes that help with digestion.

Adenocarcinoma

The most common type of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma. About 9 10 people with pancreatic cancer have this type of cancer.

Adenocarcinoma is an exocrine tumor. It starts in the cells lining the pancreatic duct, which make enzymes for digestion.

The word “adenocarcinoma” alone can apply to cancer of other organs. But, if the cancer started in the pancreas, it is pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Learn more about:

Other Exocrine Tumors

Acinar cell carcinoma is a very rare form of pancreatic cancer. Some tumors may cause the pancreas to make too much lipase, an enzyme that digests fats. Pancreatic lipase levels can be measured in the blood.

An intraductal papillary-mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) is a tumor that grows from the main pancreatic duct or from side branches of the duct. An IPMN may be benign (not cancer) when diagnosed. But, it has a chance of becoming cancer. This risk is high when the IPMN starts in the main pancreatic duct.

Mucinous cystic neoplasm with an invasive adenocarcinoma is a rare, cancerous tumor. It is a cyst filled with thick fluid. It is an IPMN but is in just one part of the pancreas, usually the tail. These tumors are mostly in women. Mucinous cystic neoplasms can be benign (not cancer) if there is no invasive component.

There are other rare exocrine tumor types. For more information about any type of pancreatic cancer, contact Patient Central.

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (PNETs)

About 7 percent of pancreatic tumors are neuroendocrine tumors (pancreatic NETs or PNETs), also called islet cell tumors. They often grow slower than exocrine tumors.

PNETs come from the abnormal growth of endocrine cells in the pancreas called islet cells. These cells make hormones to control blood-sugar levels.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are either functional (produce hormones) or nonfunctional (do not produce hormones). Most PNETs are nonfunctional.

Pancreatic endocrine tumors have different symptoms, act differently and respond to different treatments than the more common pancreatic exocrine tumors.

PNETs are classified by the hormones they make. Common PNET types are:

  • Gastrinoma (gastrin)
  • Glucaganoma (glucagon)
  • Insulinoma (insulin)
  • Somatostatinoma (somatostatin)
  • VIPoma (vasoactive intestinal peptide)
  • Nonfunctional Islet Cell Tumor (no hormones)

Learn more about pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.

How Is the Type of Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed?

Imaging tests are important in diagnosing pancreatic cancer. But, to get an exact diagnosis, the doctor needs a tissue sample, or biopsy, of the tumor.

A pathologist looks at tissue samples under a microscope. The shape, size and arrangement of the cancer cells may help the pathologist figure out the type of pancreatic cancer.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

We’re Here to Help

For free, in-depth and personalized resources and information on pancreatic cancer, contact Patient Central.

  • See how pancreatic cancer is found, including tests used.
  • Learn more about this rare tumor type, including symptoms and treatment.
  • Learn about the treatments available for the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

Information reviewed by PanCAN’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, who are experts in the field from such institutions as University of Pennsylvania, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center and more.

Information provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. (“PanCAN”) is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or other health care services.

PanCAN may provide information to you about physicians, products, services, clinical trials or treatments related to pancreatic cancer, but PanCAN does not recommend nor endorse any particular health care resource.

In addition, please note any personal information you provide to PanCAN’s staff during telephone and/or email communications may be stored and used to help PanCAN achieve its mission of assisting patients with, and finding cures and treatments for, pancreatic cancer.

Stored constituent information may be used to inform PanCAN programs and activities. Information also may be provided in aggregate or limited formats to third parties to guide future pancreatic cancer research and education efforts.

PanCAN will not provide personal directly identifying information (such as your name or contact information) to such third parties without your prior written consent unless required or permitted by law to do so. For more information on how we may use your information, you can find our privacy policy on our website at https://www.pancan.org/privacy/.

Source: https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/about-pancreatic-cancer/types-of-pancreatic-cancer/

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer

About 80% of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed after the disease has reached an advanced stage, which makes them hard to treat.

Less than 20% of pancreatic cancers are caught when the cancer is still confined to the pancreas or closely surrounding areas.

Though the disease has not spread, these cases are treated with complicated surgical operations that require a high level of experience to perform safely and effectively.

Whether you’re diagnosed with localized or metastatic pancreatic cancer, it’s important to find a team of physicians with the most innovative treatment options and expertise.

At MD Anderson, you are the focus of a personalized pancreatic cancer treatment plan that brings together a multidisciplinary team of some of the top pancreatic cancer professionals that use the most advanced techniques.

World-class surgeons treating localized pancreatic cancer

When pancreatic cancer is confined to the pancreas, and sometimes when it has spread only to the nearby areas, it can be removed with surgery. The highest chances for successful treatment occur when the tumor is completely removed, and the surgical techniques required are extremely complex. Because our surgeons are among the most experienced and skilled in the nation, MD Anderson has:

  • The highest 5-year survival rate reported in the surgical literature for patients who have undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer.
  • Less than a 1% mortality rate after surgery. That is over 6% lower than the national average.
  • Among the shortest average length of hospital stay after surgery.

Pioneers of pancreatic cancer treatment

Our experts provide comprehensive pancreatic cancer care, and they have pioneered several advances in the field, including:

  • The use of chemotherapy and/or radiation in the preoperative setting.
  • Establishment of the “borderline resectable” staging subgroup and definition of the best course of treatment. Incorporating this staging group leads to larger numbers of patients with advanced cancer that may benefit from combining several types of therapy, including surgery.
  • Innovative radiation techniques, such as giving higher-than-normal doses of radiation therapy (dose escalation) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).

Developing more effective treatment options through clinical trials

MD Anderson conducts a wide range of clinical trials to test new and innovative treatment options for both localized and metastatic pancreatic cancer. The treatment options used in these trials often cannot be found anywhere else and are critical for advancing pancreatic cancer treatment.

Current clinical trials focus on:

  • Combining several types of therapy before surgery to treat resectable and borderline resectable pancreatic cancer.
  • Identifying more effective ways to use chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat pancreatic cancer tumors that can’t be removed surgically.
  • Developing more effective treatment options for pancreatic cancers that have metastasized.
  • Detecting pancreatic cancer earlier (especially in patients with risk factors).
  • Promoting healthy habits that enhance the effectiveness of treatment.

Learn more about our pancreatic cancer clinical trials and research.

Offering the latest radiation therapy techniques

Radiation therapy can be a powerful tool in pancreatic cancer treatment.

Our radiation oncologists are experts at stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) and dose-escalation, which allow high doses of radiation to be delivered to the tumor without damaging healthy tissue.

Many MD Anderson faculty have led or are leading national clinical trials to improve radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer.

Source: https://www.mdanderson.org/cancer-types/pancreatic-cancer.html

Pancreatic Cancer: What is Pancreatic Cancer? Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis | Columbia University Department of Surgery

Pancreatic cancer

Overview | Causes | Symptoms | Genetics | Diagnosis | Staging | Treatment | Prognosis | Coping

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer refers to tumors that start in the cells of the pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach that helps you digest food.

Cancer develops when cells grow in an uncontrolled manner and form masses or tumors in the pancreas, instead of growing into healthy pancreatic tissue, which may also spread to other parts of the body.

Tumors can interfere with the functions of the pancreas and cause pain and other symptoms.

What is a pancreatic tumor?

Normally, cells only divide to form new cells when the body needs them, and the body destroys old cells that are no longer functioning properly. Mutuations in cell DNA can cause cells to grow and divide uncontrollably, or may prevent old cells from dying when necessary.

The reasons these mutations occur are still being researched, but it is known that the mutations can either be inherited or acquired during life. When extra cells accumulate and form a mass, it is called a tumor.

Tumors can be benign or malignant.

What is the difference between a benign tumor and cancer?

If a tumor remains in one place and stops growing, it is considered benign. Benign tumors do not possess the ability to invade other tissues and organs. This is why benign tumors are not cancerous. However, they can cause health problems by placing pressure on nearby organs, blood vessels, or nerves.

If a tumor continues to spread, it is considered malignant – also called cancer. Malignant tumors are dangerous because they can spread to other organs and tissues.

The process of spreading beyond the original organ is called metastasis: if a tumor has spread to other tissues or organs, it is called metastatic (it has metastasized to other locations).

 Physicians assign the cancer a stage depending on how wide it has spread.

Tumors in the pancreas can either be exocrine tumors (about 95% of pancreatic cancers) or endocrine tumors (about 5% of pancreatic cancers).

What are exocrine tumors?

Pancreatic cancer can develop in any part of the pancreas. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma, also called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, orPDAC, originates in the exocrine tissue (which constitutes the majority of the pancreas) and is the most common kind of pancreatic cancer (95%).

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma arises from abnormal cells lining the pancreatic duct. These cells may form glands, or a collection of cells surrounding an empty space. Unless otherwise specified, nearly all accounts of pancreatic cancer refer to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma or PDAC.

Other rare forms of exocrine tumors include acinar cell carcinoma, adenosquamos carcinoma, and mucinous cystadenocarcinoma.

The information on this site refers mostly to exocrine tumors, and specifically pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

What are endocrine tumors?

Endocrine tumors are cancers that originate in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas,* the islet of Langerhans cells. Because endocrine tumors begin in cells that produce hormones, the tumors themselves may produce hormones that cause symptoms in addition to the problems caused by the presence of an abnormal mass.

Of all pancreatic cancers, endocrine tumors account for less than 5%. They may also be called neuroendocrine or islet cell tumors. Islet cell tumors affect approximately 2500 people in the United States annually.

Some of these tumors secrete excessive amounts of hormone and are referred to as functional neuroendocrine tumors. More common functional islet cell tumors include insulinomas and glucagonomas, whereas VIPomas and somatostatinomas are much more unusual.

Nonfunctional tumors are less common and do not secrete excess hormones.

*Note: Endocrine tumors may also form in hormone-producing cells in other parts of the body such as the adrenal gland, thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary gland, lung and gastrointestinal tract.

Insulinoma

Insulinomas arise from the islet cells of the pancreas and produce excessive amounts of insulin, resulting in low blood sugar. Typically small and noninvasive, these tumors are benign 90% of the time.

Symptoms

Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, weakness, uncontrolled shaking, hunger, and at times psychiatric disturbances. A history of fainting related to low blood sugar and weight gain commonly affects patients.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis for this disorder requires observation of insulin level as it relates to blood sugar level. A low blood sugar level combined with a high insulin level confirms the diagnosis that an insulinoma exists.

After diagnosis, the next step is localization of the tumor, accomplished using imaging studies including CT, MRI, octreotide scanning (injection of radioisotope into the vein and subsequent scanning to record the radiation given off by the radioisotope), and ultrasound. However, in some patients, these imaging techniques are unable to localize the tumor.

In these cases, attempts to locate the lesion are performed by experienced endocrine surgeons during an operation and are successful in the majority of patients.

Treatment

Treatment for an insulinoma usually includes surgical removal of the tumor. Because these tumors are often small and benign, this surgery is curative. Larger tumors may require removal of part of the pancreas depending on location.

Nonfunctional Neuroendocrine Tumors

Nonfunctional neuroendocrine tumors represent about 40% of all tumors affecting the islet cells. These tumors are termed nonfunctional or clinically silent because they do not produce excessive hormones. They are slow growing and may be very large by the time of diagnosis. About half of these tumors are malignant.

Next Steps

If you or someone you care for is dealing with a pancreatic condition, the Pancreas Center is here for you. Whether you need a diagnosis, treatment, or a second opinion, we have an entire team of experts ready to help. 

Call us at (212) 305-9467 or use our online form to get in touch today.

To keep learning about pancreatic cancer: 

Overview | Causes | Symptoms | Genetics | Diagnosis | Staging | Treatment | Prognosis | Coping

Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer

Early pancreatic cancers often do not cause any signs or symptoms. By the time they do cause symptoms, they have often grown very large or already spread outside the pancreas.

Having one or more of the symptoms below does not mean you have pancreatic cancer. In fact, many of these symptoms are more ly to be caused by other conditions. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to have them checked by a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Jaundice is yellowing of the eyes and skin. Most people with pancreatic cancer (and nearly all people with ampullary cancer) will have jaundice as one of their first symptoms.

Jaundice is caused by the buildup of bilirubin, a dark yellow-brown substance made in the liver. Normally, the liver releases a liquid called bile that contains bilirubin.

Bile goes through the common bile duct into the intestines, where it helps break down fats. It eventually leaves the body in the stool.

When the common bile duct becomes blocked, bile can’t reach the intestines, and the amount of bilirubin in the body builds up.

Cancers that start in the head of the pancreas are near the common bile duct.

These cancers can press on the duct and cause jaundice while they are still fairly small, which can sometimes lead to these tumors being found at an early stage.

But cancers that start in the body or tail of the pancreas don’t press on the duct until they have spread through the pancreas. By this time, the cancer has often spread beyond the pancreas.

When pancreatic cancer spreads, it often goes to the liver. This can also cause jaundice.

There are other signs of jaundice as well as the yellowing of the eyes and skin:

  • Dark urine: Sometimes, the first sign of jaundice is darker urine. As bilirubin levels in the blood increase, the urine becomes brown in color.
  • Light-colored or greasy stools: Bilirubin normally helps give stools their brown color. If the bile duct is blocked, stools might be light-colored or gray. Also, if bile and pancreatic enzymes can’t get through to the intestines to help break down fats, the stools can become greasy and might float in the toilet.
  • Itchy skin: When bilirubin builds up in the skin, it can start to itch as well as turn yellow.

Pancreatic cancer is not the most common cause of jaundice. Other causes, such as gallstones, hepatitis, and other liver and bile duct diseases, are much more common.

Belly or back pain

Pain in the abdomen (belly) or back is common in pancreatic cancer. Cancers that start in the body or tail of the pancreas can grow fairly large and start to press on other nearby organs, causing pain.

The cancer may also spread to the nerves surrounding the pancreas, which often causes back pain. Pain in the abdomen or back is fairly common and is most often caused by something other than pancreatic cancer.

Weight loss and poor appetite

Unintended weight loss is very common in people with pancreatic cancer. These people often have little or no appetite.

Nausea and vomiting

If the cancer presses on the far end of the stomach it can partly block it, making it hard for food to get through. This can cause nausea, vomiting, and pain that tend to be worse after eating.

Gallbladder or liver enlargement

If the cancer blocks the bile duct, bile can build up in the gallbladder, making it larger. Sometimes a doctor can feel this (as a large lump under the right side of the ribcage) during a physical exam. It can also be seen on imaging tests.

Pancreatic cancer can also sometimes enlarge the liver, especially if the cancer has spread there. The doctor might be able to feel the edge of the liver below the right ribcage on an exam, or the large liver might be seen on imaging tests.

Blood clots

Sometimes, the first clue that someone has pancreatic cancer is a blood clot in a large vein, often in the leg. This is called a deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

Symptoms can include pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected leg. Sometimes a piece of the clot can break off and travel to the lungs, which might make it hard to breathe or cause chest pain.

A blood clot in the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism or PE.

Still, having a blood clot does not usually mean that you have cancer. Most blood clots are caused by other things.

Diabetes

Rarely, pancreatic cancers cause diabetes (high blood sugar) because they destroy the insulin-making cells. Symptoms can include feeling thirsty and hungry, and having to urinate often. More often, cancer can lead to small changes in blood sugar levels that don’t cause symptoms of diabetes but can still be detected with blood tests.

Source: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html

What Is Pancreatic Cancer? – Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow and divide control and form a tumor.

The pancreas is a gland located deep in the abdomen, between the stomach and the spine. It makes enzymes that help digestion and hormones that control blood-sugar levels.

Organs, the pancreas, are made up of cells. Normally, cells divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells get old, they die, and new cells take their place.

Sometimes this process breaks. New cells form when the body does not need them, or old cells do not die. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor.

Some tumors are benign. This means they are abnormal but cannot invade other parts of the body.

A malignant tumor is called cancer. The cells grow control and can spread to other tissues and organs.

Even when the cancer spreads to other areas of the body, it is still called pancreatic cancer if that is where it started. Pancreatic cancer often spreads to the liver, abdominal wall, lungs, bones and/or lymph nodes.

Order our free educational packet for more information about pancreatic cancer and its treatment.

How Many People Will Get Pancreatic Cancer?

More than 57,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020. That is more than 158 people diagnosed every day.

Pancreatic cancer is the ninth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the 10th most commonly diagnosed in men in the U.S.

Types of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic tumors are either exocrine or neuroendocrine (endocrine) tumors. This is the type of cell they start in. Knowing the type of tumor is important because each type acts differently and responds to different treatments.

About 93% of pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumors. The most common type of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma.

About 7% of pancreatic tumors are neuroendocrine tumors (pancreatic NETs or PNETs), also called islet cell tumors. They often grow slower than exocrine tumors.

Learn about the types of pancreatic cancer.

What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?

Changes in your DNA cause cancer. These can be inherited from your parents or can arise over time. The changes that arise over time can happen because you were exposed to something harmful. They can also happen randomly.

Pancreatic cancer’s exact causes are not well understood. About 5% to 10% of pancreatic cancers are considered familial or hereditary. Most pancreatic cancer happens randomly or is caused by things such as smoking, obesity and age.

You may have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer if you have:

  • Two or more first-degree relatives who have had pancreatic cancer
  • A first-degree relative who developed pancreatic cancer before the age of 50
  • An inherited genetic syndrome associated with pancreatic cancer

If you have any of these, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends consulting with a genetic counselor to determine your risk and eligibility for a screening program.

A person may also be more ly to get pancreatic cancer because of:

  • Long-standing diabetes
  • Chronic and hereditary pancreatitis
  • Smoking
  • Race (ethnicity): African-American or Ashkenazi Jew
  • Age: over the age of 60
  • Gender: males slightly more ly
  • Diets high in red and processed meats
  • Obesity

This does not mean that everyone who has these risk factors will get pancreatic cancer or that everyone who gets pancreatic cancer has one or more of these.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer risk factors.

Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague, unexplained symptoms, such as:

  • Pain, usually in the abdomen or back
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes or both) with or without itching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Changes in stool
  • Pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas)
  • Recent-onset diabetes

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, we urge you to speak to your doctor immediately and reference pancreatic cancer.

Fatigue, weakness and depression are also symptoms. A person with advanced pancreatic cancer may also have fluid in the abdomen and blood clots.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer signs and symptoms.

How Is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed?

A pancreatic tumor can only be seen on an imaging study such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or endoscopic ultrasound (EUS). Then, the doctor gets a sample of the tumor tissue to figure out the exact diagnosis.

Why Is Pancreatic Cancer Hard to Find?

The pancreas is located deep in the abdomen, so doctors usually cannot see or feel the tumor during a physical exam. Also, pancreatic cancer symptoms are not always obvious and usually develop over time.

Doctors may use several tests to make a diagnosis. But, there is no standard test to diagnose pancreatic cancer. This makes diagnosis even more complicated.

What Treatments Exist for Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer treatment depends on the stage of the disease and the patient’s general health. Patients may get standard (approved) treatments or take part in clinical trials.

Standard treatments are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Clinical trials study new treatments. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends clinical trials at diagnosis and during every treatment decision.

Why Is Pancreatic Cancer Hard to Treat?

Surgery offers the best chance of controlling pancreatic cancer for a long time. But, most patients are diagnosed at later stages and are not eligible for surgery. Tests to find pancreatic cancer in the earliest stages are urgently needed.

As early detection study continues and as technology gets better, researchers predict that we will make progress toward finding the disease earlier.

Another challenge is that pancreatic tumors are surrounded by a dense tissue layer, called the stroma. This makes it difficult for treatment to reach the tumor. Researchers are studying ways to get treatment through the stroma to make it more effective.

Also, some cancers have been successfully treated with targeted therapies which block specific mutations. But, these drugs have not been developed specifically for pancreatic cancer yet.

Molecular profiling tells you about the unique biology of your tumor. Results may align with targeted treatments that work well in other cancer types. As more studies are done, more targeted treatments will be developed and approved for pancreatic cancer patients whose tumors have specific molecular changes.

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