What is Pancreatic Cancer? Know more types, causes, symptoms and treatment

Pancreatic cancer cases in India are on the rise. The prevalence of pancreatic cancer worldwide is 1 in 1,00,000 people per year. The prevalence rate in males in India is 0.5 to 2.4 while in females it is 0.2 to 1.8 per 1,00,000. The risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.

What’s Pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is the condition in which cancer cells occur in the pancreatic tissue. The pancreas is an organ located in the abdominal cavity behind the stomach. The pancreas secretes various chemicals, including digestive juices, insulin and other hormones, that aid in digestion and regulate blood sugar levels. The cancer cells can appear on any part of the pancreas. However, the most common part of pancreatic cancer developing is the lining of the tube that carries digestive juices from the pancreas to the digestive system.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer do not occur in the early stages of the disease. Patients experience symptoms when the cancer is at an advanced stage and has spread to other organs. Advanced stage cancer is more difficult to treat and requires more aggressive therapy.

Types of pancreatic cancer

The pancreas is both the endocrine and exocrine gland. Endocrine glands secrete chemicals directly into the bloodstream while exocrine glands secrete chemicals through a duct. Depending on the origin of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic cancer is of two types:

  • Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer: Unfortunately, most pancreatic tumors are cancerous. Different types of exocrine pancreatic cancer are giant cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, and acinar cell carcinoma.
  • Endocrine Pancreatic Cancer: This type of pancreatic cancer is uncommon. The types of endocrine pancreatic cancer are somatostatinomas, insulinomas, and glucagonomas.

Pancreatic cancer symptoms

Patients experience the symptoms of pancreatic cancer in an advanced stage. The presence of some symptoms does not confirm the presence of pancreatic cancer. The symptoms may be due to other underlying medical conditions. Some symptoms of pancreatic cancer are:

  • Abdominal pain or back pain: Pancreatic cancer can cause pain in the abdomen or back. An increase in the size of the pancreas due to cancer can put pressure on surrounding organs, causing pain. In addition, the pancreas also compresses nearby nerves, which also causes pain.
  • Jaundice: The head of the pancreas is present near the bile duct. Jaundice can be an early stage symptom of pancreatic cancer if it starts in the head of the pancreas. If cancer starts in the tail or body of the pancreas, advanced stage jaundice may occur. The enlargement of the pancreas compresses the bile duct, resulting in blockage. This results in the buildup of bile and high bilirubin levels in the body.
  • Enlargement of liver or gallbladder: Pancreatic cancer can cause enlargement of the gallbladder or liver. When cancer blocks the bile duct, bile accumulates in the gallbladder, causing the gallbladder to become enlarged. Liver enlargement can also occur when pancreatic cancer spreads to the liver.
  • diabetes mellitus: The pancreas has cells that secrete insulin. When the cancer damages these cells, the patient may experience symptoms of diabetes. The symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, excessive thirst and hunger, and persistent fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Cancer in the pancreas can also cause problems in the stomach. The patient may experience nausea and vomiting. The patient may feel stomach pain that becomes severe when eating.
  • blood clots: In some cases of pancreatic cancer, the presence of blood clots is the first sign of pancreatic cancer. The blood clot usually occurs in the legs. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis. Sometimes the blood clot can travel to the lungs and cause breathing complications.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss: As with several other cancers, patients with pancreatic cancer may experience unexplained weight loss.
  • Loss of Appetite: Pancreatic cancer results in burning more calories than normal and causes muscle protein to be broken down. It also suppresses the appetite of the patients.
  • Weakness or fatigue: The pancreatic cancer patient experiences extreme tiredness and fatigue.

When to see a doctor

Pancreatic cancer may not show any symptoms in the early stage. Make an appointment with your doctor:

  • If you have jaundice or other symptoms that worry you
  • If you have persistent tiredness, nausea and vomiting
  • If you have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer
  • If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer

Call 1860-500-1066 to make an appointment.

Causes of pancreatic cancer

The DNA of a cell contains all information about the functioning of that cell. One of that information is when and at what rate cell division should take place. However, due to some changes in this DNA information, known as a mutation, the cell divides uncontrollably, leading to an accumulation of cells. This accumulation of cells forms a tumor. Pancreatic cancer occurs when the cells of the pancreas divide uncontrollably. There is no exact information about why this happens.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer

While there is not a complete understanding of why pancreatic cancer occurs, some factors increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. These factors are:

  • Genetic diseases such as Lynch syndrome.
  • Gender, as men are more susceptible to pancreatic cancer.
  • Exposure to chemicals such as pesticides or dyes.
  • Underlying medical conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver, chronic pancreatitis, or gingivitis.
  • Smoking, lack of daily exercise or being overweight.

Treatment of pancreatic cancer

Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the stage of the disease. Some of the treatment options are:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs that kill cancer cells. It is also effective when cancer has spread to other parts. Doctors generally use radiation therapy along with chemotherapy.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiotherapy uses high energy radiation to kill the cancer cells. In some cases, the doctor may use radiation therapy while performing the surgery.
  • Surgery: The doctor may perform surgery to remove the tumor. In some cases, the doctor removes the entire pancreas through surgery.

Complications of pancreatic cancer

Complications of pancreatic cancer occur as the disease progresses. Some of the complications are:

  • intestinal obstruction
  • persistent pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice and other liver diseases

Pancreatic cancer prevention

You can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by taking the following measures:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • routine exercises
  • healthy diet
  • Avoid smoking


Pancreatic cancer is the cancer of the pancreas. It is difficult to treat the condition because the patient does not experience any symptoms in the early stages. If you are at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer, you should be screened routinely.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the survival rate for pancreatic cancer?

Of the most common cancers, pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate. Overall, the 5-year survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer is 9%.

  1. Are pancreatic cancer and breast cancer related?

BRCA mutation increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This mutation also increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. Of the total number of people with pancreatic cancer, 5% have a BRCA mutation.

  1. Is life possible without the pancreas?

Yes, life is possible without the pancreas. However, people without a pancreas must take insulin to control blood sugar levels. They also have to take medicines that help with the digestion process.

Call 1860-500-1066 to make an appointment.

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