Last updated date: 18-Jul-2021
Originally Written in English
What are symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Acibadem Healthcare Group
One should immediately seek medical attention, when complaint(s) become(s) persistent in the course of disorders.
Be careful about distension and flatulence!
Insidiously progressing disorders can cause devastating results. They can cause death without any symptoms. Pancreatic cancer is one of such diseases. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth common cause of cancer-related deaths around the world and it is reported that 30% of pancreatic cancer cases are caused by smoking. It is considered that consumption of fruits and vegetables as well as foods rich in fiber reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer while eating meat and high-fat foods increase this risk. In addition to genetic factors, chemicals such as gasoline and metallurgic odors also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is more common in obese and diabetic people. The risk also increases as a result of prior surgeries carried out for small intestinal bleeding and ulcers.
What is pancreas?
Pancreas is a large organ that measures approximately 15 cm in length at hindermost location of abdomen. The anterior surface of pancreas is covered by stomach, duodenum and colon and the organ plays an important role in digestion and regulation of blood glucose along with many important functions. More than 8 out of 10 cancer cases are diagnosed in people at and above 60 years of age, while the risk increases especially above 50 years of age, but it can be diagnosed before 40, albeit very rarely. The reasons of high mortality in pancreatic cancer are secondary to difficulty in early diagnosis, quick spread (metastasis), and poor response to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Pancreatic cancer is generally insidious, as the symptoms are hardly recognizable in early stages. Typical complaints usually develop after the cancer progresses or spreads. Therefore, early diagnosis is challenging and the cancer usually spread to lymph nodes and nearby organs before it is diagnosed. One should immediately seek medical attention, when complaint(s) become(s) persistent in the course of disorders. The symptoms include:
- Jaundice: It is usually painless and caused by obstruction of bile ducts. Jaundice may not be seen if the cancer begins in pancreatic corpus and tail. Itchy skin may be a preliminary sign of jaundice.
- Reduced appetite, early feeling of fullness, indigestion, flatulence and gas distension which do not respond to therapies
- Taste changes, sensing malodor and disgust against foods
- Fatigue, weight loss
- Pain in upper part of abdomen that can radiate to back (Pain partially regresses by bending forward and worsens after eating)
- Idiopathic (unexplained) low-back pain
- Sudden-onset diabetes mellitus
- Fatty defecation (Color of the stool becomes lighter, the stool is malodorous and it cannot be easily cleaned by flushing the toilet.)
Treatment varies according to stage of pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is treated with various methods depending on the stage. In an early-stage cancer, the tumor can be surgically removed by experienced general surgeons. In advanced tumors, on the other hand, surgical treatment is not an option; special medical treatments (various painkillers, nerve root blocks etc.) and modalities like chemotherapy or radiotherapy are preferred. For advanced stage tumors, treatments aim to prolong the lifetime and reduce relieve the suffering. The goal of chemotherapy is to eliminate jaundice, enable nutritional support, alleviate pain and enhance quality of life. In developed countries, various clinical studies are on the way by specialized centers with experience in management of pancreatic cancer in order to discover novel medicines for treatment of pancreatic cancer.
*Aim of the information in our website is not directing individuals to diagnosis and treatment. do not perform procedures regarding diagnosis and treatment without approval of your physician. Contents do not include information regarding curative healthcare services of Acibadem Healthcare Group.