⦿ Pancreatic cancer usually shows little or no symptoms until it has advanced and spread. Therefore, most cases (up to 80 per cent) are diagnosed at later, more difficult-to-treat stages.
⦿ If cancer hasn’t spread outside the pancreas (stage-1 & 2) and surgery is possible, then the survival 3 to 5 years or more. Stage 1 cancer patients have better survival than stage-2. Cancer that has spread beyond the pancreas into surrounding tissues is called locally advanced cancer or stage 3.
⦿ If cancer can’t be removed by surgery, the median survival is about 6 to 11 months. For cancer that has spread to another part of the body (stage 4), the median survival is only between 2 and 6 months.
⦿ Pancreatic cancer takes at least a decade to start as per some research.
⦿ Pancreatic cancer has ranked 11th most common cancer in the world counting 458,918 new cases and causing 432,242 deaths (4.5% of all deaths caused by cancer) in 2018. The average age of diagnosis is 71 years for men and 75 years for women. Pancreatic cancer in India is 0.5-2.4 per 100000 men, and it is 0.2-1.8 per 100000 women.
⦿ The pancreas is a gland of the digestive system. It is joined to the small bowel by a duct. Pancreatic cancer starts in the cells lining this duct. It then spreads into the body of the pancreas, before invading nearby nerves and blood vessels. If left untreated, it will spread to all the organs in the abdomen. Pancreatic cancer may also enter the lymphatic system and spread to other parts of the body.
⦿ Pancreatic cancer can spread to other organs in the body.
⦿ It most often spreads to the abdomen and liver first. The other organs that can be involved are lungs, bones & adrenals.
⦿ The time interval required for pancreas cancer to spread to these organs varies in different patients. But on an average the cancer spreads within 1 month to 6 months, if left untreated.
In the early stages, pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to detect because often there are no symptoms. But, as the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
⦿ Pain in the upper abdomen or upper back
⦿ Yellow skin and eyes, and dark urine from jaundice
⦿ Loss of appetite
⦿ Nausea and vomiting
⦿ Weight loss
⦿ Recent onset diabetes after the age of 50 years
These symptoms are not sure signs of pancreatic cancer. An infection or other problem could also cause these symptoms. Only a doctor can diagnose the cause of a person’s symptoms. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor.
Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells begin to grow uncontrollably and form a tumor within the pancreas. The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. However, doctors have identified some risk factors that increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer. These include:
⦿ Age >45 years
⦿ Male gender
⦿ Alcohol abuse Cigarette smoking (responsible for about 25% of pancreatic cancers)
⦿ Regular consumption of high dietary fats
⦿ Obesity (obese people are about 20% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-obese people)
⦿ Type 2 diabetes
⦿ Chronic pancreatitis (often seen with heavy alcohol use and smoking)
⦿ Family history of pancreatic cancer
⦿ Heavy exposure to certain chemicals used in the dry cleaning and metalworking industries.