Pancreatic cancer usually doesn't cause symptoms at first. It's silent and painless. Symptoms usually don't begin until the cancer has spread. They may include:Pain in the upper belly or back.Jaundice. This yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes can happen when the growing tumor presses the bile duct closed.Unexpected weight loss.Loss of appetite.Extreme tiredness.Of course, there are other conditions that cause these symptoms, so they don't necessarily mean you have cancer. But it's important to talk to your doctor if you have any of these problems.
Even if treatment doesn't usually cure the cancer, it may help you live longer and feel better. The most common treatments include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Often a combination of these treatments is used.SurgerySurgery will be done to remove the tumor if possible. But most of the time the cancer has already spread so far that not all of it can be removed.If surgery can remove all of the cancer, it can help you live longer. But even with successful surgery, the cancer often comes back.If you are told that your cancer has spread too much for surgery, you may want to get a second opinion from a pancreatic cancer surgeon.Surgery for pancreatic cancer includes: Whipple procedure. This is the most common surgery for pancreatic cancer. The surgeon may remove part of the pancreas, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, and the gallbladder and common bile duct. Distal pancreatectomy. The surgeon may remove part of the pancreas and the spleen. Total pancreatectomy. The
What is pancreatic cancer?Pancreatic cancer happens when cells that aren't normal grow and start to form tumors in the pancreas, a small organ located deep in the belly, behind your stomach.The pancreas makes juices that help your body digest food. It also makes insulin and other hormones that help control your blood sugar. There are two main types of pancreatic tumors: exocrine and endocrine. The type of tumor depends on which type of cells are involved. Exocrine (say EX-oh-krin) cells make digestive juices. Endocrine (say EN-doh-krin) cells make insulin. Most people with pancreatic cancer have exocrine tumors, which grow faster than endocrine tumors.Treatments are more successful when cancer is found early. But in most cases, pancreatic cancer has already spread by the time it is found. Still, treatment may help you feel better, and it helps some people live longer.What causes pancreatic cancer?Experts don't know what causes pancreatic cancer. But they do know that changes in
The Whipple procedure is an operation to remove a pancreatic tumor and a lot of the tissue around it. After a large cut is made in your belly, the surgeon will look at the pancreas and other organs in the area, including lymph nodes, to see if the cancer has spread. Tissue samples will be taken for a biopsy. When the surgeon is satisfied that the tumor has not spread and can be removed entirely, he or she takes out the part of the pancreas containing the tumor. The surgeon will also take out the first part of the small intestine, the bile duct, the gallbladder, and nearby lymph nodes. Sometimes the lower part of the stomach is also removed.The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. The normal tissue is examined under a microscope to see if it is free of cancer cells. This is known as getting clear margins. Having clear margins improves the chances—but doesn't guarantee—that all cancer cells have been removed.The second part of the surgery
Managing side effects The side effects of treatment can be serious. Healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep and exercise may help control your symptoms. Your doctor may also give you medicines to help you with certain side effects, such as medicines to control and prevent nausea and vomiting.Home treatment for fatigue includes tips on how to manage tiredness that doesn't go away with rest or sleep. For example, if taking a shower is a priority, and if mornings are when you have the most energy, take your shower in the morning.Home treatment for nausea or vomiting includes watching for and treating early signs of dehydration, such as having a dry mouth or feeling lightheaded when you stand up. Eating smaller meals may help. So can a little bit of ginger candy or ginger tea. Home treatment for diarrhea includes resting your stomach and being alert for signs of dehydration. Check with your doctor before using any nonprescription medicines for your diarrhea.
To look for or diagnose pancreatic cancer, your doctor will use one or more imaging tests—tests that produce pictures of the pancreas and the area around it. Such tests include:CT scanor MRI. You lie on a table while a large scanner takes images. Dye may be injected in your arm or swallowed to make the images clearer.PET scan. A radioactive liquid called a tracer is injected in your arm. When the tracer has had time to reach your pancreas, you lie on a table while a large scanner takes pictures.Endoscopic ultrasound. A small tube is inserted through your mouth and down into your digestive system. A camera at the end of the tube takes ultrasound pictures of the pancreas. The doctor can also insert a needle through the tube to collect tissue samples.Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram. A small tube is inserted through your mouth and down into your digestive system. Dye is injected through the tube, and X-rays are taken. Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram. Dye is injected