Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month & Ribbon
Month November
Ribbon Purple Color

Pancreatic cancer is that which affects the cells and tissues of the pancreas. It is also known as exocrine cancer and is one of the most difficult to diagnose cancers. Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer develops silently and when the symptoms start showing, it is almost in the advanced stages of the disease. The condition causes rapid weight loss, dark colored urine, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal and back pain, jaundice and enlarged lymph nodes. Some of the patients also develop diabetes due to the impaired function of the gland leading to reduced insulin production. Blockage of bile ducts can lead to severe itching all over the body.


Treatment of pancreatic cancer depends largely on the stage of the disease.

  • Resection: If detected in the early stages then resectable modes of surgery are employed to remove the affected part of the pancreas and the adjacent abdominal organs and some of the lympnodes as well. The procedure could cost $ 16,000.Care is taken not to affect the normal digestive process.
  • Chemotherapy involves use of drugs such as 5-FU (fluorouracil), Gemcitabine and Capecitabine. Other effective drugs include Cisplatin and Folfirinox. The cost of chemotherapy comes to about $30,000 with extra expenses for pain management.
  • Pain management for these patients includes opiod-based drugs, bile duct stents and antidepressants. This can cost up to $2000 per month until recovery.


Pancreatic cancer is caused by the mutations in the DNA of the pancreatic cells. The cause of these mutations can vary from exposure to various types of carcinogens, obesity, wrong lifestyle habits, genetic predisposition and finally reduced selenium and lycopene.

Test & Procedures

As with other types of cancer, patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed through the first presentations of clinical symptoms, after which elaborate laboratory tests such as scans and histopathological studies are conducted to determine the type and stage of the cancer. Biopsies include FNA (fine needle aspiration), Endoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound and laparoscopy. Blood tests include detection of specific antigen levels such as CA 19-9 and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA).

Side Effects

  • Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hair fall and fatigue.
  • Side effects of surgery could range from increased risk of infections to diabetes due to impaired insulin secretion. Other endocrine functions may also be affected.
  • Treatment with pain killers could range from acidity to drug-induced mutations.

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