The pancreas is an organ involved in the digestive system and endocrine systems of humans. Located in the upper left abdomen surrounding the small intestine, liver, and spleen. Furthermore, the pancreas plays an essential role in controlling bodily functions.
What is the role of the pancreas?
The pancreas secretes hormones such as glucagon, insulin, pancreatic polypeptide, and somatostatin that collaboratively regulate blood sugar levels in human beings. The pancreas secretes pancreatic juices rich in bicarbonates, trypsin, lipase, phospholipase, lysophospholipase, cholesterol esterase, and amylase essential for digesting carbohydrates, proteins, and triglycerides from the consumed food. Bicarbonate in the pancreatic juice helps in making the medium alkaline for enzymes to work efficiently.
The condition in which there is the uncontrolled growth of pancreatic cells is known as pancreatic cancer.
Causes Of Pancreatic Cancer
- Research evidence shows that pancreatic cancer is likely to develop due to genetic factors and genetic conditions such as Lynch syndrome and Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome.
- It has been found that cancerous elements develop near the pancreas rapidly in males above 55 years.
- Individuals with health conditions such as diabetes mellitus, obesity, inflammation of the pancreas, cirrhosis, and abdominal infections are at a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- A sedentary lifestyle can lead to the development of pancreatic cancer. Smoking, alcoholism, obesity, lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating habits can lead to the development of cancer around the pancreas.
- People exposed to chemicals during dry cleaning or metal extraction are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
Signs and symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Generally, the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer appear in the last stages when cancerous cells have already expanded. The common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include abdominal pain, diabetes, unexplained tiredness, swelling of gallbladder or liver, backaches, loss of appetite, fatty stool, vomiting, indigestion, and diarrhea. However, people infected with the cancer of the pancreas may also experience jaundice, depression, and abnormal weight loss.
Stages of Pancreatic Cancer
According to the American Joint Committee on cancer, identifying the stage of pancreatic cancer is highly important to determine the kind of treatment it requires. The staging system helps to identify the extent of the tumor, spread of cancerous cells to surrounding lymph nodes and spread of the tumor to distant sites and organs. Therefore, there are five stages of pancreatic cancer.
In this stage, pancreatic cancer is present on the top layer of pancreatic ducts which is not visible on imaging tests. Stage 0 indicates that cancerous cells confine to the topmost layer only and no spreading has been there.
In Stage I, the cancerous cell grows to about 2 to 4 centimeters on the pancreas. The cells have not spread to surrounding lymph nodes, distant sites, and organs. It is strenuous to identify pancreatic cancer at this stage due to a lack of signs and symptoms.
The cancerous cells spread to the local pancreas and nearby lymph nodes in stage II. But infection does not spread to distant sites. During this stage, individuals may experience symptoms such as jaundice, abnormal weight loss, loss of appetite, change in urine color, and abdominal pain.
Stage III determines the wider spread of cancerous cells to lymph nodes and blood vessels. During this stage, individuals may experience symptoms such as back pain, fatigue, depression, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
In stage IV, the cancerous cells invade distant sites and organs such as the liver, brain, peritoneal, lungs, and bones. Severe abdominal pain, jaundice, excessive weight loss and fatigue, depression, and nausea are some symptoms that occur in stage IV.
Treatment Of Pancreatic Cancer
- Surgical removal of tumor and mass of cancerous cells helps in treating pancreatic cancer. But surgery application majorly depends on the location of cancer on the pancreas and the stage of cancer.
- If the cancer cells spread outside the pancreas, radiation therapy treats them. In radiation therapy, high-energy rays and beams kill cancer cells. Hence, it can be chemotherapy or targeted therapy.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
- Quitting smoking can help to reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- Inactivity and sedentary lifestyle majorly influence obesity. Therefore, it is essential to exercise regularly.
- It is essential to keep a healthy diet rich in triglycerides, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates to develop a strong immunity.
Uncontrolled growth of pancreatic cells is referred to as pancreatic cancer that can negatively impact body functions. Abdominal pain, swelling of the gallbladder or liver, backaches, diabetes, unexplained tiredness, and diarrhea are some of the symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer. There are five stages of cancer of the pancreas depending on the extent of the tumor, the spread of cancerous cells to surrounding lymph nodes, and the spread of the tumor to distant sites and organs. Hence, individuals need to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle to prevent the spread of diseases.