Pancreatic carcinoma symptoms and causes

November 12, 2012

Pancreatic carcinoma symptoms and causes

Pancreatic carcinoma is cancer of the pancreas, which can be caused by a number of things including diabetes and smoking and produces symptoms ranging from fatigue to jaundice. The pancreas is an important organ that is found behind the stomach. The role of the pancreas is produce and release enzymes responsible for the absorption of some foods, primarily fats. Islet cells are located inside the pancreas and are where the hormones insulin and glucagon are made. These are hormones are needed to help control the levels of blood sugar inside the body. These cells can also become cancerous, in the form of tumours but this condition is referred to as islet tumours.

Causes

Although the exact cause is as of yet unknown, pancreatic carcinoma symptoms do occur more commonly in certain people. Individuals suffering from diabetes as well as those suffering from chronic pancreatitis (long term inflammation of the pancreas) are all more likely to develop it. Additionally, pancreatic carcinoma symptoms are more common in smokers than they are in non-smokers. The risk is also thought to increase with age and slightly more men are affected than women. In very few cases, the cause appears to be linked to genetic syndromes that have been passed down through the family, although this seems to be rare.

Symptoms

It is common for the tumour of cancer to begin to develop without presenting any initial carcinoma symptoms. Unfortunately this means that in many cases the cancer is fairly advanced before any signs of it have been noticed. Some of the earlier pancreatic carcinoma symptoms include:

  • Dark coloured urine and clay-coloured stools

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • A loss of appetite leading to a loss of weight

  • Discomfort or pain felt in the upper belly or abdomen

  • Jaundice, which causes a yellowing of the skin, mucus membranes and/or eyes

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Back pain

  • Diarrhoea

  • Indigestion

  • Blood clots

If you think you may be experiencing pancreatic carcinoma symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. A diagnosis will then be made using tests and exams such as a CT scan, MRI scan, endoscopic ultrasound and a pancreatic biopsy. The disease may also reveal itself in liver function tests, serum bilirubin tests and complete blood count tests.

Treatment

Treatment is available, however the problem is that so many cases are discovered when the cancer has already advanced, making surgery difficult. When surgery is opted for, it should be done at an experienced clinic or hospital. If the tumour has advanced to a stage whereby it cannot be removed through surgery, treatment may include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. If the cancer has spread to other organs such as the liver, chemotherapy is usually the best method. Managing the pain and pancreatic carcinoma symptoms is an important part of the treatment as well as providing psychological support for the patients as well as their families.

Complications can occur, which may include blood clots, weight loss, problems with the liver, depression, infection and pain. For the best prognosis, report any carcinoma symptoms as soon as you notice them. However, as they usually don’t occur until later stages, in over 80% of cases the tumour has spread too much to be completely removed. In these cases the survival rate on average is less than one year and 95% of people diagnosed will not live for longer than 5 years. This type of cancer a long with many more forms can help to be prevented through not smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

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