Pancreatic Cancer

  • Overview


    Pancreatic cancer occurs when malignant cells develop in a part of the pancreas. This may affect the normal functioning of the pancreas, including the way the exocrine or endocrine glands work.

    About 70% of pancreatic cancers are located in the head of the pancreas. This can block the common bile duct, which will decrease the flow of bile and cause a build-up of bile pigment in the blood. This is known as jaundice.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted and adapted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/pancreatic-cancer/

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


    Symptoms


    Early stages of pancreatic cancer rarely cause symptoms. Symptoms also may be unnoticed until the cancer is large enough to affect nearby organs.

    Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:

    • indigestion
    • appetite loss
    • feeling sick (nausea)
    • vomiting
    • weight loss
    • pain in the upper abdomen, side or back, which may cause you to wake up at night
    • changed bowel motions – either diarrhoea, severe constipation, or stools that are pale and hard to flush away
    • jaundice, which causes yellowish skin and eyes, dark urine, pale stools and itchiness
    • onset of diabetes within the last two years, or worsening of existing diabetes – in up to 50% of people with
    • pancreatic cancer, the cancer stops the pancreas from making insulin properly
    • for PNETs, too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycaemia)
    • for PNETs, blurred vision.

    Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are also common to other conditions. See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted and adapted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/74282/b1000/pancreatic-cancer-28/pancreatic-cancer-symptoms/?pp=33793&cc=9561&ct=21

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


    Diagnosis


    To confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, your doctor will take a full medical history and you will have several tests. Some tests will help the doctor determine if cancer has spread to other parts of your body. This is called staging.

    • Blood tests
    • Ultrasound
    • CT (computerised tomography) scan
    • MRI and MRCP scans
    • Endoscopy
    • Endoscopic ultrasound
    • Scintigraphy
  • Treatment


    Although research has improved outcomes for many people, pancreatic cancer can be difficult to treat. Surgery in combination with chemotherapy, and possibly radiotherapy, is the most effective treatment.

    The type of treatment you have will depend on:

    • the stage of the tumour (the site, size and if it has spread)
    • your general health
    • your preferences.

    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/24360/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/pancreatic-cancer-exocrine-tumour-surgery/?pp=33816&cc=254&&ct=21

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


    Types of Surgery


    Surgery to remove the tumour

    Surgical removal of the tumour (resection) is the most suitable treatment for people who have early-stage disease and who are in reasonably good health, and can cope physically with a major operation.

    Surgery to relieve symptoms

    Surgery may also be used to relieve symptoms, such as intestinal (bowel) obstruction or jaundice. Jaundice is a condition in which the skin and the eyes turn a yellow colour as bile builds up in the blood.

    Radiotherapy

    Radiotherapy treats cancer by using x-rays to kill cancer cells or injure them so they cannot multiply. These x-rays can be targeted at cancer sites in your body.

    Radiotherapy may be used:

    • to shrink the tumour before removing it with surgery
    • to destroy any cancer cells that may remain after surgery
    • to relieve symptoms such as pain by shrinking the tumour, which may be pushing on a nerve or another organ
    • together with chemotherapy to treat tumours that cannot be operated on.

    Treatment is usually given Monday to Friday, for up to five weeks. It is painless and each session takes a few minutes. Treatment is planned to do as little harm as possible to your normal body tissues.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/89422/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/pancreatic-cancer-exocrine-tumour-radiotherapy/?pp=33816&cc=254&ct=21

    © Cancer Council NSW 2014


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