What is Pancreatic Cancer?

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer, which is caused by malignant masses that will form in any part of the pancreas, is one of the types of cancer that is difficult to diagnose early because it progresses in a short time and without symptoms. Cancer cells that form in the pancreas can spread to other organs quickly, so it is necessary to consult specialist doctors when the slightest symptom appears. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, which has different types, is called "adenocancer."

Types of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer, which has more than one type, is classified into two types. The most common is exocrine pancreatic cancer, which is caused by tumors formed in the ducts carrying pancreatic juice. The endocrine type is endocrine pancreatic cancer, with tumors in the cells that produce hormones. These pancreatic cancer types are also classified according to the course of the tumor in the body.

Regional Pancreatic Cancer

The cancer has spread to nearby blood vessels and lymph nodes along with the pancreas but has not reached distant organs. This type of cancer is not suitable for surgical intervention.

Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas cancer has spread to nearby blood vessels and lymph nodes and the liver, lungs, and even bones. In this case, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used as treatments.

Recurrent pancreatic cancer

It is the name given to the type of cancer that recurs in or near the surgically treated area after treatment.

Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer

Neuroendocrine type is divided into two: resectable and unresectable. Resectable types are suitable for surgical applications. With the help of medical imaging methods and various tests, the size and location of the tumors are determined. The cancer can be easily removed by surgery if the size of the tumor, metastasis status, or location factors allow for surgical intervention. Unresectable pancreatic cancer is a type that is not suitable for surgical intervention. In this situation, methods for endocrine cancer are applied to patients, and an appropriate treatment is determined with molecular imaging systems.

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is a disease that causes almost no symptoms in its initial stages and is, therefore, difficult to detect. However, as it progresses, it starts to give some symptoms. Common pancreatic cancer symptoms seen in many people include:

  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Loss of appetite and involuntary excessive weight loss
  • Pain in the upper abdomen and back, feeling of depression
  • Blood coagulation
  • Weakness
  • Swelling and indigestion

In addition, the disease has many other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and pale skin. One of the first symptoms that manifests in the early period is usually jaundice. This problem first manifests in the eyes and then spreads to various skin parts. The pain in the abdomen is mild at first but then turns into severe pain that hits the back.
The confusion of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer with the symptoms of different diseases also makes the diagnosis difficult from time to time. Therefore, if a few of the above symptoms are present, it is essential to take them seriously and see a specialist doctor without wasting time for the success of the treatment.

What are the Causes of Pancreatic Cancer?

Many conditions can be counted among the causes of pancreatic cancer. In the groups at risk, individuals who frequently smoke heavily and those with overweight problems take the first place. The most common cause in the vast majority of patients is smoking. However, a family history of cancer may also be one of the triggers.
Nutritional habits are also among the serious factors that can lead to this disease. Not consuming enough fruit and vegetables and eating foods high in calories and protein can seriously increase the risk of developing the disease in individuals who are prone to it. Conditions such as excessive weight gain, occupational exposure to various petroleum or chemical products, and diabetes are also seen as important triggers of this disease.
Pancreatic cancer is more common in men than women. At the same time, it is one of the conditions determined due to research, in which the disease also increases with age. It has been observed that this cancer is more common over the age of 45. However, there is a risk of contracting the disease earlier.

What are the Diagnostic Methods for Pancreatic Cancer?

This disease, which settles and develops silently in the patient's body, does not show itself much initially. However, over time, it starts to give symptoms, and early treatment creates an easier treatment chance for the patient. To diagnose pancreatic cancer, some applications should be made.


Using ultrasonography, issues such as the presence of a mass on the pancreas, its size, its proximity to its surroundings, the degree of spread, and its proximity to the vessels, if any, are determined in detail.

Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging

In computerized tomography or CT for short, imaging is provided with a drug administered through the mouth and intravenous route. With this method, a 95% definitive diagnosis can be made. Differential factors of tumors can also be detected with MRI. It is possible to use these two methods together in the diagnosis phase.

Blood Tests

Various blood tests measure the degree of multiple substances secreted in the liver. These tests give detailed information about tumors such as CA 19.9 and CEA. Blood tests are methods used to obtain information in the follow-up of patients with a precise diagnosis

Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan)

This screening method is used in cancer cases that have progressed. It is a method mainly used to determine which regions the cancer cells have spread to.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreaticography (ERCP)

It is a diagnostic method entered from the duodenum that provides imaging of areas such as the pancreatic and bile ducts. In cases of pancreatic cancer, imaging techniques and blood tests are usually sufficient.

What are the Stages of Pancreatic Cancer?

As in every disease, there are various stages of pancreatic cancer. In the first stage, the tumor is limited to the pancreas, and when diagnosed early, it is surgically removed, and the patient gets rid of this problem. In the second stage, the disease spreads outside the organ and can spread to nearby tissues and lymph nodes. At this stage, it is possible to perform surgery. In the third stage, cancer cells extend to all nearby blood vessels. In this case, the surgery may only sometimes give a definite result. Cancer cells spread along the lines surrounding the lungs and abdominal organs in the fourth and last stages.
With effective treatment methods, patients in the first and second stages can quickly return to their everyday lives. However, a more extended treatment period is determined to create advances and spread to many parts of the body; a more comprehensive treatment process depends on the cooperation and communication between the patient and the doctor and the treatment methods applied.

What are the Treatment Methods for Pancreatic Cancer?

Many factors affect the treatment process for pancreatic cancer. The rate of spread of the disease, the stage at which it is, the preferences of the patient, and the general health status are essential issues that affect the treatment initiation process. The chance of success in treating pancreatic cancer diagnosed early is higher than in the later stages.
The first and most efficient treatment method is surgery. This method gives excellent results in diseases in the first and second stages. This method includes surgical applications, and depending on the condition of the cancer, the entire pancreas or only the tumor part is removed. At the same time, the duodenum and lymph nodes can also be released in the surgery to be performed at this stage, depending on the spread of the disease. Thanks to the early diagnosis of many cancer diseases, it is possible for patients to return to their everyday lives with surgery. However, further spread of cancer cells and progression to higher stages may render the surgery ineffective. In such cases, different treatment methods are used.
Radiotherapy is a different method used in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. This method can sometimes be applied together with chemotherapy. The combined use of both techniques often results in further shrinkage of the tumor and allows for easy surgical removal.
Chemotherapy is a drug therapy that aims to destroy cancerous cells. It also helps these cells to lose their ability to grow.

Before Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

Good communication between the patient and the doctor before pancreatic cancer surgery facilitates the healthy progress of the process. The patient must be fully prepared for this surgery. General controls are made before the operation. Many tests are applied at this stage, and it is decided whether the patient is physically fit for surgery. The results of all tests can be shared with the patient at their request. If a situation complicates the patient's surgery, this is reported to both the patient and the patient's relatives. In order to decide on surgery, the patient's age is also one of the factors that are considered. Issues such as eating habits and other drugs used, if any, quitting smoking and alcohol consumption are essential in this process.

What is the Process After Pancreatic Cancer Treatment?

Only about 20% of people with pancreatic cancer can be diagnosed early. For this reason, the number of people who get rid of this disease with surgery is minor. Whether there will be an improvement in people's quality of life after treatment varies according to the stages of the disease. However, multiple factors exist, such as the patient's response to treatment and general health. After the treatment, it is essential to avoid smoking for the patients to return to their everyday lives in a short time and to prevent the malignant cells from renewing themselves. At the same time, a balanced and regular diet is essential in this process. Care should be taken not to gain excessive weight but also to protect their psychological health.

Created at 11.10.2023 06:21
Updated at 27.04.2024 08:37
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