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The pancreas is an organ that produces digestive enzymes and hormones that aid digestion and metabolism. One of the hormones is insulin and its deficiency results in diabetes mellitus. Pancreatic cancer accounts for only 2 to 3% of annual cancer incidences. However it does have a high death rate because it is an aggressive cancer that has few symptoms in the early stages which frequently results in late diagnosis. The first symptoms are usually a vague abdominal pain that may spread to the back, lack of appetite and weight loss. Late stages of the disease usually has symptoms of jaundice, itching, nausea, vomiting, depression and a solid abdominal mass. The survival rate is about 5% for five years from the time of cancer diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer is more prevalent in men than women and in those over 60. Risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer include smoking, high fat and meat diet and occupational exposure to petroleum and other chemicals. Other possible risk factors include coffee, alcohol, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes mellitus. No accurate screening tests are available but once symptoms appear, diagnosis can be made by ultrasound imaging, MRI, CT scanning and endoscopic and laparoscopic examinations. Surgery in early stages can be very effective but in late stages is purely a relief measure such as to unobstruct the bile flow. Chemotherapy is utilized once the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues but it is merely aimed to relief symptoms. Prevention of pancreatic cancer involves removing the risk factors as mentioned above.
Source: summary of medical news story as reported by The Manilla Bulletin
About: All about pancreatic cancer
Date: 28 November 2004
Source: The Manilla Bulletin
Author: Dr Eduardo Gonzales
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