World Pancreatic Cancer Day: 5 early warning signs that should not be ignored

World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2022: Learn more about pancreatic cancer and watch out for these early signs of it.
pancreatic cancer
World Pancreatic Cancer Day is always celebrated on November 17. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr S R Mishra Updated: 23 Oct 2023, 11:35 am IST
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The pancreas, located in the abdomen, aids in the digestion of food by secreting enzymes. It also maintains the sugar level in the blood by secreting insulin. According to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center study, pancreatic cells have an adaptive response to recurrent inflammatory episodes that initially guard against tissue damage but can promote tumour growth in the presence of mutant KRAS (which is found in roughly 95 per cent of all pancreatic cancers).

One of the most fatal forms of cancer is pancreatic cancer. Ductal adenocarcinoma, the most prevalent variety of pancreatic cancer, arises in the ducts that transport digestive enzymes. A pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour is a name for a malignancy that appears in the endocrine pancreas. It ranks as the 4th most common reason for cancer-related death in both men and women.

Pancreatic cancer affects 0.2–1.8 per 100,000 women and 0.5–2.4 per 100,000 males in India. In the United States, the illness accounts for 7 per cent of all cancer fatalities and around 3 per cent of all cancer cases.

Read about the risk factors for pancreatic cancer:

Pancreatic cancer’s exact origin is still unknown. However, you could develop pancreatic cancer as a result of additional factors like:

1. Advanced age: Most common age to develop pancreatic cancer is 60-80 years, although it can happen at any age.

pancreatic cancer
Keep an eye on your changing health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Lifestyle factors: Excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, and unhealthy eating habits (high intake of red or processed meat).

3. Obesity: If you’re overweight or obese, you may develop pancreatic cancer.

4. Inherited gene mutation: Long-standing diabetes is also one of the risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

5. Genetic disorders: Family-based genetic disorders can also increase cancer risk.

Here are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer:

A few early warning signs of pancreatic cancer should not be overlooked.

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  • Upper abdomen pain which is radiating to the back and worsens after eating and lying down position.
  • Yellowish discoloration of the eye and urine may be associated with itching.
  • Weight loss
  • New onset of diabetes or worsening of existing diabetes
  • Recurrent nausea and vomiting
pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer needs proper treatment. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Diagnosis and tests

Anyone experiencing any of the symptoms should seek medical attention right away. It can be diagnosed with:

  • USG abdomen/Contrast-enhanced CT of the upper abdomen/MRI abdomen.
  • EUS + FNAC: Endoscopic ultrasound helps in assessing the nature of cancer and for tissue sampling from the diseased area.
  • ERCP: This allows visualization of the pancreaticobiliary tree, and also helps in tissue sampling.
  • CA 19-9: A type of protein released by pancreatic cancer cells that might indicate a tumor.
  • Upper GI endoscopy/side view endoscopy may also help in advanced disease.

Treatment for pancreatic cancer

Early-stage cancer can be completely cured by Whipple’s procedure, a surgery used to remove cancerous tumours from the pancreas. However, chemotherapy helps in advanced disease.

People should maintain a healthy lifestyle, and anybody experiencing symptoms of pancreatic cancer should start treatment immediately under a doctor’s supervision.

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About the Author

Dr S R Mishra, Director Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences, Medanta – The Medicity Gurgaon ...Read More

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