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Unusual Cancers of Childhood (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Unusual Cancers of the Abdomen



Prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on whether the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis.


Treatment of stomach cancer in children may include the following:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer and some healthy tissue around it.
  • Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.

See the PDQ summary on adult Gastric Cancer Treatment for more information.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is a pear-shaped gland about 6 inches long. The wide end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. Many different kinds of tumors can form in the pancreas. Some tumors are benign (not cancer).

Anatomy of the pancreas. The pancreas has three areas: head, body, and tail. It is found in the abdomen near the stomach, intestines, and other organs.

The pancreas has two main jobs in the body:

  • To make juices that help digest (break down) food. These juices are secreted into the small intestine.
  • To make hormones that help control the sugar and salt levels in the blood. These hormones are secreted into the bloodstream.

The risk of pancreatic cancer is increased by having Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome or Cushing syndrome.

Symptoms and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

Most pancreatic tumors do not secrete hormones and there are no symptoms of disease. This makes it difficult to diagnose pancreatic cancer early.

Pancreatic tumors that do secrete hormones may cause symptoms. The symptoms depend on the type of hormone being made.

If the tumor secretes insulin, symptoms that may occur include the following:

  • Weakness.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Low blood sugar. This can cause blurred vision, headache, and feeling lightheaded, tired, weak, shaky, nervous, irritable, sweaty, confused, or hungry.
  • Coma.

Other symptoms caused by tumors that make hormones include the following:

  • Watery diarrhea.
  • Abnormal sodium (salt) level in the blood: Having a low sodium level can cause confusion, sleepiness, muscle weakness, and seizures. Having a high sodium level may cause weakness, tiredness, confusion, paralysis, coma, and seizures.
  • A lump in the abdomen.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Pain in the abdomen.

If cancer is in the head of the pancreas, the bile duct or blood flow to the stomach may be blocked and the following symptoms may occur:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
  • Blood in the stool or vomit.

Check with your child's doctor if you see any of these problems in your child. Other conditions that are not pancreatic cancer may cause these same symptoms.

Tests to diagnose and stage pancreatic cancer may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • X-ray of the chest.
  • CT scan.
  • MRI.
  • PET scan.
  • Biopsy.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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