Pancreatic Cancer

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

The pancreas is positioned behind the lower portion of the stomach, and it plays a major role in the regulation of blood sugar levels and digestion. Those with chronic diabetes, smokers, those with specific genetic disorders, people over 40, men, and African Americans are at greatest risk for developing Pancreatic Cancer. It is one of the most common forms of cancer, and it is also one of the deadliest.

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

What makes pancreatic cancer deadlier than other types of cancer is the lack of symptoms in the earliest stages. The initial warning signs could indicate another disease or medical condition. Because some of the symptoms seem minor they are often ignored. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:

  • Pain in the upper abdominal region that might radiate to the back
  • Jaundice (yellow-tinged eyes and skin)
  • Appetite loss
  • Melancholy
  • Blood clotting

Diagnosis is confirmed through various imaging methods and tissue biopsy.

How is Pancreatic Cancer Treated?

After confirming the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, staging is determined through blood tests, laparoscopic imaging and an MRI or CT scan. Stage establishment helps the doctor to determine the best course of action to eliminate and stop the cancer from spreading. Treatment may include:

  • Resection surgery

Surgical removal of the pancreatic head, part of the duodenum and bile duct, and portions of the stomach and the gallbladder (Whipple procedure), or surgical removal of the pancreatic tail, part of the pancreatic body and possibly the spleen (distal pancreatectomy).

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy treatments
  • Targeted cancer cell therapy
  • Clinical trials

By the time that pancreatic cancer is usually discovered, it is often too late for treatments to prove effective. At that point the goal is to provide emotional support and symptom relief. However, prognosis depends on the type of tumor, location and the cancer stage. Survival rates are mere estimates, and everyone reacts differently to treatment.

Some people choose not to learn the average survival rates, and others want to find out. With that said, it is not possible to know exactly how long someone with pancreatic cancer or any other type of cancer will survive. Even those with stage IV pancreatic cancer have options for continued treatment. Countless people survive past five years, and medical advancements are being made all of the time.

Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 23, 2017