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Pancreatic Cancer

Friday, June 29th 2012. | Digestive System

What is Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer results from malignant transformation of cells of the pancreas. The disease affects mainly men between 60 and 80 years and is more common in men than in women. In recent years, there is nevertheless an increase of pancreatic cancer among younger patients.

The pancreas is an organ that plays an essential role in digestion. It is in the middle of the upper abdominal cavity, just up the kidneys, and fits into the curve of the duodenum, behind the stomach. The pancreas consists of endocrine part that secretes hormones (insulin, glucagon) and exocrine part, which produces pancreatic enzymes (digestive enzymes).

Digestive enzymes (proteases, lipases and amylases) are substances that divide the food absorbed in the small to small particles. If pancreatic function is impaired, digestion and glucose metabolism are severely disrupted.


Pancreatic Cancer Causes

As with many cancers, the cause of onset of pancreatic cancer is still unknown. However, the following risk factors play a role :

  • Heavy smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Chronic pancreatitis (chronic inflammation of the pancreas)

Disorders (symptoms)

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer usually occur only with an advanced stage. Depending on its location, different symptoms appear.

  • Jaundice (jaundice) painless
  • Jaundice with itching
  • Epigastric pain, possibly irradiation dorsal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Decrease in overall performance

Examinations (diagnosis)

The different possibilities of examinations and other diagnostic measures are addressed in a discussion between doctor and patient.

  • History taking into account the patient’s symptoms
  • Palpation abdomen
  • Ultrasound
  • CT
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): a review essential to visualize the bile duct and main pancreatic duct. To do this, an endoscopy of the stomach and small intestine is performed through an endoscope mobile. The orifice of the bile duct and main pancreatic duct (papilla), located in the small intestine, is full of contrast through a catheter. X-rays are then practiced; they allow you to view channels, and any interruptions and obstacles to the flow.
  • Laparoscopy
  • Determination of tumor markers in the blood (as a parameter of evolution under treatment).

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Options

If the cancer is confined only to the pancreas, it can sometimes be resected completely by surgery. Since this is a very important surgery, it can only be a sured by specialty hospitals.

The pancreas is resected in part or in whole, to do this, the surgeon makes an incision in the middle of the abdomen. The procedure is the same for ablations of parts of the stomach, small intestine or the biliary system. An ICU stay is always required after such interventions. Despite this major operation, recovery is often impossible.

If the cancer has already spread to the surrounding area or reached distant organs through blood and lymphatic systems (metastasis), radiotherapy and drug treatment (chemotherapy) may be considered to slow the progression of the tumor and / or mitigate pains. At this stage, a cure is not possible.

Possible Complications

For major surgery, operative mortality is high (3%) and adverse effects are observed in 30-50% of cases. In addition, the patient will be exposed to risks inherent in any surgery, that is to say, delays wound healing, bleeding, thrombosis, wound infections, fever and allergic reactions to certain medications or bandages.

Problems healing at the suture inside the abdomen may also occur. The suture formed between the pancreas and the intestine is particularly threatened. If total removal of the pancreas, the patient can no longer produce or digestive enzymes or insulin.

Thus, the patient should take digestive enzyme supplements with each meal and blood sugar should be controlled by insulin injections. Despite this treatment, the absorption of nutrients will be disrupted and patients often suffer from impaired gastric emptying and intestinal disorders.

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