Pancreatic cancer occurs when cancer develops within the pancreas gland (which is located behind the stomach). The pancreas is responsible for secreting enzymes which are responsible for digest the food we eat and also produce hormones (insulin and glucagon) which are responsible for maintaining normal blood sugar (glucose) levels.
What are the related symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer often produces very little symptoms early in the disease. By the time patients seek help, the disease is often found to be inoperable and therefore, incurable as results from chemo- and radiotherapy have been disappointing. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:
Diagnosis is usually based on a combination of imaging tests such as ultrasound, computer tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); blood tests such as CEA and CA 19-9 and surgical biopsy or fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB).
What are the treatment options for pancreatic cancer?
Surgery is still the mainstay of treatment and offers the only realistic chance of cure. If imaging tests indicate that the tumour is resectable and the patient is physiologically fit for major surgery, the patient will be offered a resectional procedure in the form of either a pancreatic-duodenectomy (Whipple procedure) for a tumour in the head of the pancreas or distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy for tumours of the body or tail of the pancreas.