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Medical Diseases and Conditions
Pancreatic Cancer
What is the pancreas?
The pancreas is a thin, long gland behind your stomach next to the duodenum, (the first part of the small intestine) lying across the spine. 
What does the pancreas do?
The pancreas has two functions: 
  • It makes enzymes needed for digestion. 
  • It produces hormones, including insulin, for the body to use glucose.
Pancreatic cancer
  • The incidence of pancreatic cancer has increased throughout the world. 
  • It is the fourth most common cancer in men. 
  • It is the fifth most common cancer in women. 
  • Eighty percent of pancreatic cancer occurs in people over age 50. 
  • Unlike other cancers, such as colon or breast, it is difficult to detect in it's early stages. 
Who is at risk for pancreatic cancer? 
  • People with exposure to carcinogens (cancer causing agents) are at an increased risk 
  • Though rare, heredity can play a role. 
  • Pancreatic cancer is three to four times more common in people who smoke. 
What are the symptoms of cancer of the pancreas? 
  • Dull, continuous abdominal pain (less pain when leaning forward, more when lying down) 
  • Pain in the middle of your back 
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and whites of eyes), often accompanied by itching of the skin 
  • Rapid weight loss 
  • Chronic nausea or diarrhea 
  • Weakness 
  • Enlarged liver and gallbladder 
  • Clay or light colored stools 
How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed? 
  •     History of your symptoms 
  •     Physical examination 
  •     Lab tests for anemia and blood sugar 
  •     Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancratogram (ERCP) 
  •     CT scan or MRCP 
How is pancreatic cancer treated?
  • Options might be: 
  • An operation to remove the mass 
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • If a surgical cure is not possible, surgery might still be used to relieve an obstruction of the bile duct or stomach.
Follow up care:
  • Control symptoms 
  • Eat small frequent meals 
  • Rest 
  • Pain medication if prescribed 
  • Wound care 
  • Bile tube care if necessary 
  • Resume normal activity 
  • A follow-up appointment 
Call your doctor if:
  • Skin or eyes become yellow 
  • Temperature is over 100 degrees for more than 24 hours 
  • Redness, swelling, or unusual drainage from wound 
  • Opening of suture line 
  • Nausea, vomiting, shaking, or chills 
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