Functioning of Pancreas, symptoms and treatment of pancreatic Cancer
The pancreas is a 6-inch long organ located behind the stomach in the back of the abdomen. It is extended horizontally across the abdomen. The head is on the right side of the abdomen where the stomach is attached to the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). The tail of the pancreas - its narrowest part - extends to the left side of the abdomen next to the spleen.
The pancreas contains exocrine and endocrine glands that create hormones, pancreatic juices, and insulin. Enzymes, or pancreatic juices made by the exocrine glands are released into the intestines by way of a series of ducts in order to help digest fat, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Over 95% of the pancreas is made up of exocrine glands and ducts. The endocrine cells which are arranged in small clusters called islets of Langerhans, release glucagon and insulin into the bloodstream. The level of sugar in the blood is managed by these two hormones. The result is often diabetes when they are not working properly.
Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth, and it occurs when this uncontrolled cell growth begins in the pancreas. These abnormal cells continue to divide and form lumps or masses of tissue called tumours rather than developing into healthy, normal pancreas tissue. Tumours then interfere with the main functions of the pancreas.
Pancreatic cancer is categorized depending on whether it affects the exocrine or endocrine functions of the pancreas. There is an important differentiation between the two broad types of it because they have different causes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnostic tests, prognoses, and treatments. The most common type of pancreatic cancers is the tumours that affect the exocrine functions.
Cancer symptoms are quite varied and depend on where it has spread, how big the tumour is and where the cancer is located. It is often called a 'silent' disease because it rarely shows early symptoms and presents non-specific later symptoms. Tumours of these are usually too small to cause symptoms.
The symptoms that grow with the pancreas are:
• Pain in the upper abdomen due to pushing against nerves from the tumor
• A painless yellowing of the eyes and skin and darkening of the urine called jaundice, created when the cancer interferes with the bile duct and the liver.
• Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
• Significant weight loss and weakness
• Acholic stool (pale or grey stool) and steatorrhea (excess fat in stool)
These symptoms of pancreatic cancer have number of other causes, and hence make it difficult to diagnose the disease before it is in an advanced stage.
Cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, health status, age, and additional personal characteristics.
For cancer there is no single treatment. Pancreatic cancer is usually only curable when found in its earliest stages. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery are the most common treatment types. Treatments seek to relieve painful symptoms that the cancer is causing or remove the cancer.