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Pancreatic Cancer



Cancerstarts when body cells undergo uncontrolled reproduction. This canhappen to cells found in virtually all parts of the body. Pancreaticcancer results from the uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas.The pancreas is a body organ that is located on the posterior side ofthe stomach. It is a thin organ with a wide head and a narrow andsharp end. The pancreas is responsible for secreting enzymes thatfacilitate the process of digestion and hormones that control thebreakdown of sugars in the body. The prognosis of pancreatic canceris poor even when it is detected early. Pancreatic cancer spreads atan alarming speed, and it is not easily diagnosed during its earlystages. For this reason, it is among the leading causes of cancerdeaths in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society(2013), over 50,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancerannually, and over 40,000 of them succumb to the disease. This paperexplores the symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention measures ofpancreatic cancer.

Types of

Thepancreas comprises of two main types of cell types: endocrine cellsand the exocrine cells. These two cell types from different types oftumors characterized by distinct risk factors, causes, and symptoms.The first type of pancreatic cancer is exocrine cancer, which is themost common. The American Cancer Society (2013) notes that exocrinecancers &ltcases&gt make up approximately 95 percent of pancreaticcancer cases. This category of cancer begins in the ducts within thepancreas and spreads to other areas of the organ. The second type ofpancreatic cancer is endocrine cancer, also known as endocrinetumors. The American Cancer Society notes that this type of cancermakes up less than 5 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases (TheAmerican Cancer Society, 2013). This type is characterized by eitherbenign or malignant cells.

Causes of

Theexact cause of pancreatic cancer remains unclear. Scientists have notmade a conclusion about the real cause of this disorder, but theyhave discovered a range of risk factors that can increase theprobability of acquiring the disease. Some of these risk factorsalter the DNA of cells that makeup the pancreas thus, causingabnormal growth, which leads to the growth of tumors (Tjensvoll,Nordgård &amp Smaaland, 2014).Pancreatic cancer can result from DNA changes or genetic mutation,which can be either inherited or acquired. Inherited DNA changes arethose transferred from parents to children through birth. Sometimesthese inherited mutations can be part of the syndromes that increasethe risk of pancreatic cancer, as well as, other health disorders.

Onthe other hand, acquired genetic mutations occur when one is exposedto carcinogenic substances such as chemicals. Research shows thatmost gene mutations associated with pancreatic cancer take placeafter birth (Tjensvoll,Nordgård &amp Smaaland, 2014).However, the underlying cause of these mutations remains unknownbecause some of them are random occurrences that take place in theinternal structure of a cell without external triggers.

Accordingto Bodmeret al. (2012), the major risk factors for pancreatic cancer includesmoking, overweight and obesity, family history, racial orientationand workplace exposure to dangerous chemicals. People who use smokecigarettes are more likely to get pancreatic cancer than those who donot smoke. Similarly, obese individuals are at a higher risk of thesame compared to fit ad health individuals. Again, people from theAfrican-American race at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer than thewhites, and exposure to dangerous chemicals at work increases one`srisk of the disease.

Symptoms and Causes

Thesymptoms of pancreatic cancer may not become visible until it is inits advanced stage where removal through a surgical procedure isimpossible. The most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:


Thiscondition causes the eyes and the skin to become yellow. Mostindividuals with pancreatic cancer exhibit this as the first symptom.This condition results from the accumulation of bilirubin, adark-brown compound that is a constituent of bile secreted from theliver. When the bile duct blocks, it cannot reach the intestines andthe level of bilirubin in the body rises (Milan&amp Yeo, 2012).When pancreatic cancer spreads, it goes to the liver. Jaundice canalso be characterized by light-colored or greasy stools, dark urineor itchy skin.

Belly/Back Pain

Abdominalor back pain is a common indicator of pancreatic cancer. Cancers thatbegin in the body or tail part of the pancreas can result in hugetumors that can press neighboring organs thus, causing pain (Milan&amp Yeo, 2012).The effect may also spread to the nerves around the pancreas causingback pain. However, back and abdominal pains may indicate somethingelse other than cancer.

Loss of Weight and Appetite

Agradual loss of weight unintentionally is a common occurrence amongpeople with pancreatic cancer. These individuals often have adeteriorated appetite.

Nausea and vomiting

Ifthe growth of cells presses the end of the stomach, it becomes hardfor food to pass through. The outcome of this is nausea and vomiting,and pain that intensifies after taking food.

Enlargement of the Liver or Gallbladder

Milan&amp Yeo (2012)express that sometimes, pancreatic cancer blocks the bile ductcausing bile to buildup in the bladder increasing its size. Thisenlargement can sometimes be felt during physical examinationsbecause it exists as a lump beneath the ribcage on the right side.Again, cancer can enlarge the liver, particularly if it has spread tothe liver. This can be felt beneath the right ribcage, as well as,visibility on imaging tests.

Blood Clots

Bloodclots act as the initial clue that an individual has pancreaticcancer. According to Tjensvoll,Nordgård &amp Smaaland (2014), theseclots occur in the large veins, especially those found in the legscausing a condition called deep vein thrombosis. Sometimes, althoughseldom, a clot may break off and go up to the lungs where it can makeit hard for one to breathe, or cause chest pains.

Fatty Tissue Anomalies

Someindividuals with pancreatic cancer depict irregular texture of thefatty tissue below the skin because of the release of pancreaticenzymes responsible for breaking down fat.


Pancreaticcancer causes diabetes, although in rare cases. This occurs becausecancer damages the cells that make insulin in the body. Signs of thismay include feelings of thirst and hunger and urinating frequently.Moreover, pancreatic cancer can stimulate minor variations in thelevels of blood sugar, which may not necessarily cause diabetes, butare detectable through blood tests.

Treatment of

Whenan individual is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the physician candiscuss the treatment options available. These options often dependon the stage and the site of cancer, plus the general health of theperson and individual preferences. The AmericanCancer Society (2013) asserts that themain goal of pancreatic cancer treatment is to eradicate the diseaseif possible. In instances where that is impossible, physicians focuson preventing the growth and spreading of cancer to minimize thedegree of harm it can cause. The following are the main treatmentoptions for pancreatic cancer.


Thisbecomes an option only if the cancer is confined to the pancreas.Surgical procedures may be performed to remove the affected parts ofthe pancreas, the stomach or the small intestines to leavecancer-free cells (Siegel,Naishadham &amp Jemal, 2012).

Radiation Therapy

Thisform of therapy utilizes beams high in energy such as X-rays todestroy the cancer-causing cells. This therapy can be administeredbefore or after surgery, and in most cases, it is combined withchemotherapy (Siegel,Naishadham &amp Jemal, 2012).When it is impossible to perform surgery, the physician may advise acombination of both radiation therapy and chemotherapy.


Thistreatment option entails the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells.These drugs can either be injected into the blood stream or takenorally, and one may use one type or several types of drugs.

Targeted Therapy

Thisform of therapy is used to combat specific anomalies within cancercells. The drug used is intended to block chemicals that facilitatethe growth and multiplication of cancer cells. This therapy isnormally used in conjunction with chemotherapy, particularly inpeople with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Prevention Measures

Thereis no exact measure to prevent the occurrence of pancreatic cancer.However, it is advised that people should avoid smoking and alcoholintake, maintain a healthy weight by taking fitness sessions andtaking healthy diets, particularly those with larger portions offruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Observing these measures canhelp reduce one`s probability of getting pancreatic cancer.


Pancreaticcancer results from the irregular growth and multiplication of cancercells in the pancreas. It is a major killer in the U.S today. Thepancreas is a vital organ in the metabolic processes of the body. Thetwo types of cells that make up the pancreas are the exocrine and theendocrine cells, which culminate into two types of cancer namelyexocrine cancer and pancreatic endocrine tumors with the former beingthe most common. There is no specific cause of pancreatic cancer, butthere are several associated risk factors. The most common symptomsof this condition include jaundice, loss of weight and appetite,enlargement of the gall bladder, back and abdominal pains amongothers. Upon diagnosis, the available treatment options are surgery,radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy, or a combination oftwo of the above according to the doctor`s counsel. Preventivemeasures include quitting smoking and drinking and living a healthylifestyle.


AmericanCancer Society. (2013). Cancer facts and figures 2013.

Tjensvoll,K., Nordgård, O., &amp Smaaland, R. (2014). Circulating tumor cellsin pancreatic cancer patients: methods of detection and clinicalimplications.&nbspInternationalJournal of Cancer,&nbsp134(1),1-8.

Siegel,R., Naishadham, D., &amp Jemal, A. (2012). Cancer statistics,2012.&nbspCA:a cancer journal for clinicians,&nbsp62(1),10-29.

Milan,S. A., &amp Yeo, C. J. (2012). Neuroendocrine tumors of thepancreas.&nbspCurrentopinion in oncology,&nbsp24(1),46-55.

Bodmer,M., Becker, C., Meier, C., Jick, S. S., &amp Meier, C. R. (2012).Use of antidiabetic agents and the risk of pancreatic cancer: acase–control analysis.&nbspTheAmerican journal of gastroenterology,&nbsp107(4),620-626.