A malignant abnormal mass of tissue inside the pancreas is the cause for this specific type of cancer. Current estimates in the United States show that over forty-three thousand individuals will become affected by cancer of this organ with more than thirty-six thousand possible deaths prior to the end of 2010. There is a great deal of difficulty when diagnosing the condition because pancreatic cancer symptoms may not be evident until well into advanced stages of the disease.
The pancreas has two major roles, it regulates the way in which sugar is processed and it assists the digestive system. It provides the necessary digestive juices needed for the digestion of food. Cells located inside that should die in their normal life cycle will continue to live, mutate and accumulate which will cause the tumor leading to cancer.
Because there are different types of cells, different types of cancer are also possible. A specific type of cell is responsible for only digestive juices and the other is related to hormone production. Each of these cell types can be associated with a specific type of cancer.
Cells responsible for digestive juices line ducts inside the organ. These particular cells are most often connected with adenocarcinomas. This group of cells may also be called an exocrine tumor.
Hormone producing cells located here are responsible for the production of insulin. When these cells become involved it is known as a form of endocrine cancer. Fortunately, this type is extremely rare and only affects a very small percentage of the population; under one percent.
This type of cancer is often called the silent killer because symptoms do not present until the condition is serious. Some symptoms that are likely to be experienced are pain in the upper abdomen that continues through to the back, loss of appetite, weight loss, blood clots, depression and yellowing of skin and around the whites of eyes.
It is possible for some of these symptoms to be related to other conditions, but most are cause for seeking medical attention. Testing will likely begin to establish the proper diagnosis. If cancer is present, the physician will decide at what stage and start required treatment.
There are four different categories of stages with four being the most serious. One is an indication that cancer is located within the organ. Two includes its presence within and the spread to nearby organs and tissues with a possibility of the lymph nodes being involved. Three indicates that the spread has included major blood vessels and possibly reached lymph nodes. Four indicates the spread to other organs.
Surgery is a likely treatment if the cancer is limited to the pancreas upon being diagnosed. Unfortunately in latter stages, surgery may not be an option and the only form of treatment may be keeping the individual comfortable in dealing with the symptoms. There is no way to prevent this type of cancer, but to help with prevention it is best to quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight and exercise.
Some individuals are better targets than others due to certain factors. Those past sixty years of age, diabetics or those with a family history of the disease have a higher chance of getting it. This group should pay close attention pancreatic cancer symptoms.