pancreatic cancer what are the symptoms

Pancreatic cancer is a disease caused by the growth of tumors in the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland that is part of the digestive system and has a length of about 15 cm. Pancreatic cancer can be experienced by both men and women, and usually occurs in people who are elderly or over 75 years old.

The pancreas has a function that is important for the body because it produces digestive enzymes that serve to describe food so that it can be absorbed by the body. In addition, the pancreas also produces hormones, including insulin, which serves to maintain the stability of blood sugar levels in the body.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer in the early stages usually does not cause symptoms and therefore the diagnosis becomes more difficult to do. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer at an advanced stage depends on the part of the pancreatic gland that is infected because the pancreas has two types of gland tissue. First is the gland that produces digestive enzymes or is called the exocrine gland. Both are glands that produce hormones, or are called also with the endocrine glands.

The exocrine gland is the most commonly infected gland of pancreatic cancer with symptoms commonly occurring like jaundice, weight loss, and back pain or abdominal pain.

In addition to some of the symptoms mentioned above, there are some other pancreatic cancer symptoms like the following:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Fever and chills
  3. Itching
  4. Easy Blood clot
  5. Nausea and vomiting
  6. Indigestion
  7. Changes in bowel movements
  8. Loss of appetite
  9. Fever

Causes of pancreatic cancer

To date, the cause of a person affected by pancreatic cancer is still unknown, but there are some risk factors that can increase the chances of developing pancreatic cancer as follows.

  • Diabetes can increase the risk of a person affected by pancreatic cancer. Conversely, malignant tumors that grow in the pancreas can also be the cause of diabetes.
  • Helicobacter pylori bacteria that cause stomach infections are expected to slightly increase the risk of developing a person with pancreatic cancer.
  • Smoking may increase the risk of infectious pancreatic cancer because toxins and chemical substances can cause tissues and organs in the body to experience irritation and inflammation.
  • Aged over 75 years old.
  • People who do not have much physical activity, have excess weight or obesity, and do not familiarize themselves with a healthy diet.
  • Never suffer from inflammation of the pancreas or pancreatitis.
  • Have a close family member who suffers from pancreatic cancer.

In addition to the risk factors as mentioned above, there are also other risk factors that can increase the risk of infectious pancreatic cancer, i.e. people who consume excessive alcoholic beverages and chronic hepatitis sufferers.

Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis

Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in the early stages is difficult to do because it often does not cause symptoms in patients. The physical examination for examining pancreatic cancer is difficult to do because of the location of the pancreas is quite hidden inside the body and surrounded part of the intestines.

The following are some of the tests that can be done to diagnose pancreatic cancer:

  • Imaging tests of organs in the body such as ultrasound scans, CT, MRI, and PET scans. In addition, endoluminal ultrasonography (EUS) can also be performed if the CT scanor MRI scan is still less obvious. The endoscope or small camera device will be inserted through the mouth to the stomach to photograph the condition of the pancreas.
  • Laparoscopy or surgical ' keyhole ' in the abdominal area to insert a small microscope called a laparoscope, to see the organs in the abdominal cavity and pelvis.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is similar to EUS, the process of inserting an endoscope through the mouth and towards the stomach. However, the endoscope in the ERCP process is used to inject special dyes into the pancreatic tract and bile to determine the presence of a clogging tumor. This test is performed if a person suffers from jaundice.
  • Biopsy or a cell sampling process suspected as a tumor to be examined under a microscope. A small tool attached to an endoscope can be used for biopsy when performing laparoscopic, ERCP or EUS procedures.

The stages of cancer are divided into four stages or commonly called the stadium. The doctor will classify the cancer stage based on the diagnosis. Below is a stage classification of pancreatic cancer:

  1. If the cancer is only found in the pancreas and has not yet spread to other parts, it is called stage I.
  2. If the cancer has spread to the tissues and organs of the body close to the pancreas, or it may have been infected with the lymph nodes, called stage II.
  3. If the cancer has spread more to the large blood vessels around the pancreas and may have been infected with lymph nodes, called stage III.
  4. If the cancer has been widespread to other organs such as the lungs, liver, and peritoneum or membrane lining the abdominal cavity, called stage IV.

Pancreatic cancer treatment

Treatment of pancreatic cancer in each patient varies because there are several factors that determine the type of treatment performed as follows:

  • Cancer-infected parts of the pancreas.
  • Widespread cancer or stage spread suffered.
  • Age of the patient.
  • Patient health thoroughly.
  • Patient care options or preferences.
  • Treatment in pancreatic cancer patients aims to remove tumors and other cancer cells in the body. But if this is not possible to do, then the doctor will do the treatment that aims to prevent the tumor growing larger because it could lead to the emergence of further hazards. In addition, treatment is useful to relieve the symptoms, and make the patient can feel comfortable.
  • The treatment or healing process of cancer will be much harder if the tumor that appears in the body is large or has spread. Discuss with your doctor and family members to choose the type of treatment that fits the condition you are experiencing. The following are some of the types of treatments that can be done to cope with pancreatic cancer.


The most widely performed type of pancreatic cancer treatment is surgery because it can cure pancreatic cancer until fully healed. But not all sufferers of pancreatic cancer can do surgery, only 1 in 5 patients are suitable for performing tumor removal surgery.

There are several factors that can determine the success of tumor removal surgery, among others:

  1. Tumors have not spread to other parts of the body.
  2. Tumors do not grow around important blood vessels.
  3. Patients have good health thoroughly.

The following are some of the surgical procedures that can be done to cope with pancreatic cancer:

The most widely performed surgery is the Whipple operation, which is to raise the head of the pancreas. In this operation, the doctor may also remove the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder, the bile duct parts, and sometimes some of the stomach. About 30 percent of patients who have performed Whipple surgery require enzyme drugs to help digest food. This operation has a faster recovery time than total pancreatic removal surgery.

Total pancreatectomy operation to remove the whole pancreas. In addition, this surgery also lifts the spleen organs, bile duct, part of the small intestine, gall bladder, lymph nodes around the pancreas, and sometimes partly from the stomach. Patients who have performed this surgery need to consume enzymes to help digest food. The removal of pancreatic organs that function in producing insulin will make patients suffer from diabetes as well. In addition, patients should take lifelong penicillin antibiotics and routine vaccinations to prevent infection and blood clotting due to the removal of the spleen organ.

Pancreatectomy distal surgery to remove the body parts and tail of the pancreas but leave the pancreas head. It also removes the stomach, part of the colon, the left kidney, the left adrenal gland, and possibly the left diaphragm may also be removed.

If it is not curable, surgery to relieve symptoms and make the patient more comfortable can be done. This operation uses ERCP to put a stent or opening tube inside the bile duct to prevent the buildup of the bilirubin element that causes jaundice. Bypassthe operation that inhibits the bile duct can be done if the use of stent is not suitable for patients. Clogged bile duct will be cut off the upper part and reconnected to the intestines in order to transmit bile fluid.

The process of postoperative pancreatic cancer recovery should be considered because it takes a long time. The following are some noteworthy things in the postoperative pancreatic cancer recovery process:

  • Make sure the pain medication is appropriate and in sufficient doses for the postoperative period.
  • The patient can not immediately eat or drink after surgery because the digestive system like the intestines takes time to recover.
  • Before the patient can eat and drink more regularly, the patient will gently sip the fluid.
  • A six-month series of chemotherapy is usually suggested after surgery. This has a big impact on the patient's recovery opportunities.


In order to destroy malignant cancer cells in the body or prevent growth, patients can do chemotherapy with anticancer drugs. Chemotherapy can be done before or after surgery, or if surgery is not possible. Chemotherapy drugs have two forms, namely those consumed directly and given through infusion.

Chemotherapy has many side effects as it can attack healthy and normal cells. Side effects may occur, such as canker sores, weary ulcers, nausea, and vomiting. In addition, chemotherapy can also increase the risk of getting infected. The side effects experienced by patients with chemotherapy are usually only temporary and will subside once the treatment is completed.

The risk of adverse reactions will increase if the patient undergo a combination of chemotherapy treatment, but this can increase the likelihood of controlling or reducing the cancer.


To help reduce tumors and relieve pain suffered, patients can conduct cancer therapy using a high-energy radiation beam called radiotherapy. For patients who can not do surgery to cope with cancer, usually the doctor will advise to do a combination treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

However, this therapy has several side effects, such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea, and skin rash. Side effects experienced by patients due to radiotherapy are usually only temporary and will subside once treatment is done.
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