Home Health A-Z Cancer care Pancreatic Cancer and Its Symptoms Introduction

Pancreatic Cancer and Its Symptoms Introduction

Verified By Apollo General Physician February 18, 2021 9731 0
Pancreatic Cancer

Cases of pancreatic cancer in India are on the rise. The prevalence rate of pancreatic cancer globally is 1 in 1,00,000 people per year. The prevalence rate in men in India is 0.5 to 2.4, while in women, it is 0.2 to 1.8 per 1,00,000. The risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking and sedentary lifestyle.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is the condition in which cancerous cells occur in the pancreatic tissue. The pancreas is an organ present in the abdominal cavity behind the stomach. The pancreas secretes various chemicals, including digestive juices, insulin, and other hormones, that assists in digestion and regulates blood sugar. The cancerous cells may occur at any part of the pancreas. However, the most common part of developing cancer in the pancreas is the lining of the tube that carries the digestive juice from the pancreas to the digestive system.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer do not occur in the initial stage of the disease. Patients experience symptoms when the cancer is in advanced stages and spread to other organs. Cancer in the advanced stage is tough to treat and requires more aggressive therapy.

Types Of Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is both the endocrine and exocrine gland. Endocrine glands secrete chemicals directly into the bloodstream, while exocrine glands secrete chemicals through a duct. Depending upon the origin of cancer inside the pancreas, pancreatic cancer is of two types:

  • Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer: Unfortunately, most pancreatic tumors are cancerous. Various types of exocrine pancreatic cancer are giant cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, and acinar cell carcinoma.
  • Endocrine Pancreatic Cancer: This type of pancreatic cancer is not common. The types of endocrine pancreatic cancer are somatostatinomas, insulinomas, and glucagonomas.

Symptoms Of Pancreatic Cancer

Patients experience the symptoms of pancreatic cancer in the advanced stage. The presence of a few symptoms does not confirm the presence of pancreatic cancer. The symptoms may be due to other underlying medical conditions. Some of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are:

  • Abdominal Pain Or Back Pain: Pancreatic cancer may cause pain in the belly or the back. An increase in the size of the pancreas due to cancer may press the surrounding organs resulting in pain. Further, the pancreas also compresses the nearby nerves, which also causes pain.
  • Jaundice: The head of the pancreas is present near the bile duct. Jaundice may be the early-stage symptom of pancreatic cancer if it starts in the head of the pancreas. If cancer initiates in the tail or body of the pancreas, jaundice may occur at an advanced stage. The pancreatic enlargement compresses the bile duct resulting in its blockage. This results in the accumulation of bile and high bilirubin levels in the body.
  • Enlargement of Liver Or Gallbladder: Pancreatic cancer may cause enlargement of the gallbladder or liver. When cancer blocks the bile duct, the bile accumulates in the gallbladder, causing gallbladder enlargement. Liver enlargement may also occur when pancreatic cancer spreads to the liver.
  • Diabetes: Pancreas has insulin-secreting cells. When the cancer damages these cells, the patient may experience symptoms of diabetes. The symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst and hunger, and persistent fatigue.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Cancer in the pancreas may also cause problems in the stomach. The patient may experience nausea and vomiting. The patient may feel stomach pain that becomes severe with eating.
  • Blood Clots: In some cases of pancreatic cancer, the presence of blood clots is the first sign of pancreatic cancer. The blood clot usually occurs in the legs. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis. Sometimes the blood clot may travel to the lungs and cause respiratory complications.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Like in various other cancers, patients with pancreatic cancer may experience unexplained weight loss.
  • Loss of Appetite: Pancreatic cancer results in burning more calories than normal and causes muscle protein to break down. It also suppresses the appetite of the patients.
  • Weakness Or fatigue: The patient with pancreatic cancer experiences extreme fatigue and tiredness

When to See a Doctor

Pancreatic cancer might not show symptoms during the early stage. Book an appointment with your doctor:

  • If you have jaundice or any other symptoms that concern you
  • If you have persistent fatigue, nausea, and vomiting
  • If you have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer
  • If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

The DNA of a cell contains all the information about the functioning of that cell. One such information is when and at what rate the cell division should take place. However, due to some changes in this DNA information, which is known as a mutation, the cell divides uncontrollably, leading to an accumulation of cells. This accumulation of cells forms a tumor. Pancreatic cancer occurs when the cell of the pancreas divides uncontrollably. There is no exact information about why this happens.

Risk Factors For Pancreatic Cancer

Although there is no complete understanding as to why pancreatic cancer occurs, some factors increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. These factors are:

  • Genetic diseases such as Lynch syndrome.
  • Gender, as men are more prone to pancreatic cancer.
  • Exposure to chemicals such as pesticides or dyes.
  • Underlying medical conditions such as liver cirrhosis, chronic pancreatitis, or gingivitis.
  • Smoking, lack of daily exercise, or excessive weight.

Treatment Of Pancreatic Cancer

Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends upon the stage of the disease. Some of the treatment options are:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs that kills cancer cells. It is also effective when cancer spreads to other parts. Doctors generally use radiation therapy, along with chemotherapy.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy makes use of high-energy radiations to kill the cancer cells. In some cases, the doctor may use radiation therapy, while performing the surgery.
  • Surgery: The doctor may perform surgery to remove the tumor. In some cases, the doctor removes the entire pancreas through surgery.

Complications Of Pancreatic Cancer

Complications of pancreatic cancer occur as the disease advances. Some of the complications are:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Persistent pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice and other liver diseases

Prevention Of Pancreatic Cancer

Through the following measures, you can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Routine exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Avoid smoking


Pancreatic cancer is the cancer of the pancreas. It is difficult to treat the condition, as the patient does not experience symptoms in the initial stage. If you are at a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer, you should undergo routine screening.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the survival rate for pancreatic cancer?

Among the most common types of cancer, pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate. Generally, the 5-year survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer is 9%.

  1. Are pancreatic cancer and breast cancer related to each other?

BRCA mutation increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This mutation also increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. Among the total people with pancreatic cancer, 5% have BRCA mutation.

  1. Is life possible without the pancreas?

Yes, life is possible without the pancreas. However, people without a pancreas have to take insulin to manage blood sugar. They also have to take medicines that assists in the process of digestion.

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

Verified By Apollo Oncologist

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