Delta Medix Patient General Information

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer most often starts in the ducts that carry pancreatic juices. This type is called exocrine pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is an organ that is about six inches long. It is located deep in your belly between your stomach and backbone. Your liver, intestines, and other organs surround your pancreas. The pancreas produces enzymes, which help to break down food. The pancreas is also a gland that makes insulin and other hormones.

Cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor. They may enter blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into all tissues of the body. The cancer cells can grow and invade organs next to the pancreas. The spread of cancer cells is called metastasis.

Early cancer of the pancreas often does not cause symptoms. When the cancer grows larger, you may notice one or more of these symptoms

  • Dark urine, pale stools, and yellow skin and eyes from jaundice
  • Pain in the upper part of your belly
  • Pain in the middle part of your back that does not go away when you shift your position
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stools that float in the toilet
  • Weakness or feeling very tired
  • Loss of appetite or feelings of fullness
  • Weight loss for no known reason

These symptoms may be caused by pancreatic cancer or by other health problems. People with these symptoms should tell their doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer

  • Surgery may be an option for people with an early stage of pancreatic cancer. The surgeon usually removes only the part of the pancreas that has cancer. The type of surgery depends on the location of the tumor in the pancreas. Surgery to remove a tumor in the head of the pancreas is called a Whipple procedure, which is the most common type of surgery for pancreatic cancer. You and your surgeon may talk about the types of surgery and which may be right for you.
  • Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and can affect cancer cells all over the body. Most people with pancreatic cancer get chemotherapy. For early pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy is usually given after surgery, but in some cases it is given before surgery. For advanced cancer, chemotherapy is used alone, with targeted therapy, or with radiation therapy.
  • Targeted therapy is a type of drug used with chemotherapy for people with cancer of the pancreas who cannot have surgery. Targeted therapy slows the growth of pancreatic cancer. It also helps prevent cancer cells from spreading. The drug is taken by mouth.
  • Radiation Therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells only in the treated area. It can be given along with other treatments, including chemotherapy.