Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the tissues of the pancreas, an organ located in the abdomen behind the lower part of the stomach. 


Pancreatic cancer is often difficult to detect in its early stages and tends to spread rapidly, making it a challenging disease to treat. 


There are different types of pancreatic cancer, the most common being pancreatic adenocarcinoma, which originates from the cells that line the pancreatic ducts. 


Another common subtype of pancreas cancer is neuroendocrine cancer. The facts contained below pertain mostly to pancreas adenocarcinoma.


Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive cancer with a poor outlook especially if treatment with curative intent- usually surgery and chemotherapy- is not possible.


Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is not fully understood, but several risk factors are associated with its development, including:

  • Age, as the risk of pancreatic cancer increases with age
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Certain genetic syndromes



The symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, often radiating to the back
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice, indicated by yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in stool, such as light-coloured or fatty stools
  • New-onset diabetes, especially in the absence of other risk factors


Diagnosing pancreatic cancer typically involves a combination of imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRIs, and endoscopic ultrasounds, as well as biopsies to examine the tissue for the presence of cancer cells. Blood tests may also be conducted to assess the overall health and functioning of the body.



Treatment options for pancreatic cancer depend on the stage of the cancer, the overall health of the patient, and the specific characteristics of the tumour. 


Treatment modalities are determined in a multidisciplinary setting and often used in combination. These may include:

  • Surgical removal of the tumour, often in combination with chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the tumour and slow its progression
  • Targeted therapy and immunotherapy for advanced-stage pancreatic cancer


Regular follow-up visits with a healthcare provider are crucial for individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to monitor the response to treatment, detect any potential recurrence, and manage any side effects or complications associated with the disease or its treatment. 


Early detection and prompt intervention are essential in improving the prognosis and outcomes for individuals with pancreatic cancer.

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