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.
- 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
- 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
- Radiation therapy
- If a surgical cure is not possible, surgery might still be used to relieve an obstruction of the bile duct or stomach.
- Control symptoms
- Eat small frequent meals
- Pain medication if prescribed
- Wound care
- Bile tube care if necessary
- Resume normal activity
- A follow-up appointment
- 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