Pancreatic cancer: Introduction
Pancreatic cancer occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of cancer cells that form a malignant tumor in the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers, but new treatments are beginning to improve symptoms and the quality of life for people with pancreatic cancer.
The pancreas is an organ of the endocrine and digestive systems and is located in the upper left area of the abdomen. The pancreas produces hormones that affect the body's metabolism and help to regulate glucose and energy. The pancreas also secretes pancreatic juice, which helps to break down food during digestion.
Normally, cells in the pancreas that are old or damaged will stop dividing and die before they can become cancerous. These cells are usually replaced by healthy young cells. Pancreatic cancer occurs when old or damaged cells continue to divide and multiply uncontrollably. It is not known exactly why this occurs, but some cases of pancreatic cancer may be linked to inherited gene mutations. Untreated and/or advanced pancreatic cancer grows and spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body such as the liver, and becomes terminal.
People at risk for developing pancreatic cancer, also called pancreas cancer, include those who smoke or have chronic pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, or use alcohol to excess.
Pancreatic cancer is most curable if caught in the earliest stages of the disease. However, there are generally no symptoms in early stages of pancreatic cancer, and some forms of pancreatic cancer produce no symptoms until it has metastasized or spread to other organs. If there are symptoms, they can be very vague and include nausea, weight loss, and loss of appetite. For additional symptoms, refer to symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Diagnosing pancreatic cancer and its stage of advancement begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms and risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Diagnosis also includes completing a physical examination.
Diagnostic testing includes an imaging test called an endoscopic ultrasound. An endoscopic ultrasound involves passing a probe through the mouth into the esophagus and using sound wave technology to create a picture of the pancreas. Another imaging test that may be performed is an abdominal CT. However, abdominal CT is less accurate that endoscopic ultrasound and may not pick up all early tumors due to pancreatic cancer.
Another endoscopic procedure called an ERCP may also be done to examine the ducts of the pancreas, liver and gallbladder. In this procedure, the physician inserts a flexible viewing tube through the mouth and down into the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Dye is used to illuminate any abnormalities that might indicate pancreatic cancer. During this procedure, a biopsy may also be taken. A biopsy involves taking a small sample of pancreatic tissue to examine under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.
Various tests on blood, urine and the stool are also done to aid in diagnosis.
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be missed or delayed because there are generally no symptoms in early stages of the disease. Additionally, some symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, such as gallstones, indigestion, and gastritis. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Treatment of pancreatic cancer varies, depending on the stage of advancement of the disease and other factors. Treatment may include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of pancreatic cancer. ...more »
Pancreatic cancer: Pancreatic cancer is a malignant neoplasm of the pancreas.
More detailed information about the symptoms,
causes, and treatments of Pancreatic cancer is available below.
Pancreatic cancer: Symptoms
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can vary among individuals. There are generally no symptoms at all until pancreatic cancer has developed into an advanced stage. When symptoms do appear, they can be vague and very similar to other diseases, disorders and conditions. These symptoms can include diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and itching (pruritis) of ...more symptoms »
Pancreatic cancer: Treatments
The cancer cells of pancreatic cancer are very resistant to treatment. The best prognosis for a cure is diagnosing pancreatic cancer in its very earliest stage. There generally is no way to cure pancreatic cancer once it has metastasized.
Treatment plans for pancreatic cancer are individualized for each person's specific case. Treatment plans are based on a person's medical ...more treatments »
Pancreatic cancer: Misdiagnosis
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be delayed or missed because there are no symptoms until the disease has spread to other organs and generally become terminal. In addition, some symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be vague and similar to other diseases, conditions and disorders. These include gastroenteritis, gastritis, cirrhosis of the liver, gall stones, and ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Pancreatic cancer
See full list of 22
symptoms of Pancreatic cancer
Treatments for Pancreatic cancer
See full list of 21
treatments for Pancreatic cancer
Home Diagnostic Testing
Home medical testing related to Pancreatic cancer:
- Colon & Rectal Cancer: Home Testing
Wrongly Diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer: Related Patient Stories
Pancreatic cancer: Deaths
Read more about Deaths and Pancreatic cancer.
Alternative Treatments for Pancreatic cancer
Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Pancreatic cancer may include:
Diagnostic Tests for Pancreatic cancer
See full list of 18
diagnostic tests for Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer: Complications
Review possible medical complications related to Pancreatic cancer:
Causes of Pancreatic cancer
See full list of 6
causes of Pancreatic cancer
More information about causes of Pancreatic cancer:
Disease Topics Related To Pancreatic cancer
Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Pancreatic cancer:
Pancreatic cancer: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and Pancreatic cancer
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms
of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea
is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut,...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely
to cause some level of diarrhea in patients.
The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria,
but can also kill the "good" bacteria in the gut.
This...read more »
Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down
with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning).
In fact, it's...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed
(it can, of course, also fail to be...read more »
Spitz nevi misdiagnosed as dangerous melanoma skin cancer: One possible misdiagnosis to
consider in lieu of melanoma is spitz nevi.
See melanoma and spitz nevi....read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive
conditions is celiac disease, a...read more »
Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent
difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases.
Some of the better known possibilities are peptic...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer: Research Doctors & Specialists
Research related physicians and medical specialists:
Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:
Hospitals & Clinics: Pancreatic cancer
Research quality ratings and patient safety measures
for medical facilities in specialties related to Pancreatic cancer:
Hospital & Clinic quality ratings »
Choosing the Best Hospital:
More general information, not necessarily in relation to Pancreatic cancer,
on hospital performance and surgical care quality:
Pancreatic cancer: Rare Types
Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:
Latest Treatments for Pancreatic cancer
See full list of 16
latest treatments for Pancreatic cancer
Evidence Based Medicine Research for Pancreatic cancer
Medical research articles related to Pancreatic cancer include:
Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database
Pancreatic cancer: Animations
More Pancreatic cancer animations & videos
Prognosis for Pancreatic cancer
Prognosis for Pancreatic cancer:
Depending on the extent of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, the prognosis is generally regarded as poor; less than 5 percent of those diagnosed are still alive five years after diagnosis.
More about prognosis of Pancreatic cancer
Research about Pancreatic cancer
Visit our research pages for current research about Pancreatic cancer treatments.
Clinical Trials for Pancreatic cancer
The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally
and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.
Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Pancreatic cancer include:
See full list of 306
Clinical Trials for Pancreatic cancer
Statistics for Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer: Broader Related Topics
Types of Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer Message Boards
Related forums and medical stories:
User Interactive Forums
Read about other experiences, ask a question about Pancreatic cancer, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:
Definitions of Pancreatic cancer:
Pancreatic carcinoma is a carcinoma arising from the exocrine pancreas. The overwhelming majority of pancreatic carcinomas are adenocarcinomas. --2002
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Cancer of the pancreas
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Contents for Pancreatic cancer:
User Surveys and Discussion Forums
» Next page: What is Pancreatic cancer?
Medical Tools & Articles:
Tools & Services:
Forums & Message Boards
- Ask or answer a question at the Boards: