A malignant abnormal mass of tissue inside the pancreas is the primary cause for this specific type of cancer. Current estimates in the United States show that over forty-three thousand individuals will become affected by cancer of this organ with more than thirty-six thousand possible deaths prior to the end of 2010. There is a great deal of difficulty when diagnosing the condition because pancreatic cancer symptoms may not be evident until well into advanced stages of the disease.
The pancreas regulates the way that the body processes sugar and it plays a major role in the digestive system. It supplies vital digestive juices that are required to digest food. When it develops cells that mutate and continue to live past regular life expectancy they accumulate causing cancer in the form of a tumor.
Because there are different types of cells, different types of cancer are also possible. A specific type of cell is responsible for only digestive juices and the other is related to hormone production. Each of these cell types can be associated with a specific type of cancer.
Cells responsible for digestive juices line ducts inside the organ. These particular cells are most often connected with adenocarcinomas. In cases of pancreatic cancer, this group of cells may also create exocrine tumors.
Cells that produce the hormones that are responsible for the production of insulin are also located in the pancreas. Whenever these types of cells are involved the condition is known as endocrine cancer. This cancer is very rare and less than one percent of individuals are affected by this type.
Cancer of the pancreas is also referred to as the silent killer due to the symptoms being hidden until the condition is actually quite serious. Symptoms that most individuals experience are upper abdomen pain that goes through to back, weight loss, no appetite, depression, blood clots and yellowing of skin and around the white part of eyes.
It is possible for some of these symptoms to be related to other conditions, but most are cause for seeking medical attention. Testing will likely begin to establish the proper diagnosis. If cancer is present, the physician will decide at what stage and start required treatment.
There are four different categories of stages with four being the most serious. One is an indication that cancer is located within the organ. Two includes its presence within and the spread to nearby organs and tissues with a possibility of the lymph nodes being involved. Three indicates that the spread has included major blood vessels and possibly reached lymph nodes. Four indicates the spread to other organs.
Surgery is the most likely treatment especially if the cancer is only present in the pancreas at the time of diagnosis. During latter stages, surgery may not be an available option and treatment may be in forms of medications to keep the patient comfortable due to the accompanying symptoms. It is not possible to completely eliminate this form of cancer, but by quitting smoking, a healthy body weight and daily exercise will help with prevention.
A particular group of individuals are more susceptible to this particular form of cancer. Those over sixty are at high risk, as are those who have diabetes or a family history of the disease. Individuals in these high risk groups should not dismiss pancreatic cancer symptoms and quickly seek advice from a doctor, who can perform the tests necessary to diagnose the condition if present. As with all cancers, early detection and treatment is vital to a good prognosis.