Pancreatic cancer ranks 12th in malignant pathologies worldwide and 7th in terms of mortality, given the number of patients who die as a result of this disease.
Despite great efforts and countless medical advances in prevention and early detection, pancreatic cancer is detected at a late stage, when it has already invaded distant organs in more than 52% of cases, this being one of the reasons attributable to its high mortality.
What is pancreatic cancer
As its name indicates, pancreatic cancer is the growth of disordered cells that invade and damage the structure and function of the organ and that have the ability to spread or invade other organs of the body, causing damage to all of them.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer
- Anorexy. Lack of appetite is a non-specific sign of early onset.
- Pain in the upper abdomen. Persistent pain in the upper abdomen that can vary both in intensity and frequency of appearance, is usually present throughout the disease.
- Middle back pain. The back pain is of severe intensity localized in the middle part.
- General discomfort. Non-specific sign that can last for months until the disease is detected.
- Chronic weakness or fatigue. This nonspecific sign often accompanies malignant diseases. Because the injury consumes large amounts of energy to maintain its growth.
- Fever. Of unknown origin not associated with infections or colds. It usually occurs for prolonged periods of more than 5 days
- Nausea. Frequent episodes of nausea that sometimes trigger vomiting
- Dyspepsia. It means burning sensation and pain in the stomach.
- stomach distention. Patients often feel as if their intestines are suddenly inflated.
- marked weight loss. This loss is unintentional and not due to caloric restriction, that is, the patient eats even more than normal for his or her lifestyle and still exhibits weight loss in a very short period of time.
- Steatorrhea. It means the presence of fat in large quantities in the stool, which makes it difficult to remove from the toilet, as well as a strong and very unpleasant odor.
- Jaundice. Marked yellowish coloration of the skin and mucous membranes.
- Impaired glucose tolerance. The alteration of the functions of the pancreas prevents it from secreting enough insulin when it is required.
- Diabetes. Caused by the destruction of pancreatic cells, the ability to produce insulin is lost, triggering diabetes.
- Pruritus. Episodes of itching or stinging for no apparent reason are frequent, patients exhibit marks on their arms and abdomen as a result of this itching.
How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
After a patient presents signs suggestive of pancreatic cancer and the doctor questions him, he can already guide the need for tests to rule out this disease.
Finding the presence of one or more masses in the abdomen during the physical examination sets off alarms and markedly increases the risk of the patient suffering from the medical condition. In both cases, imaging tests or exams will be indicated, which may show the lesions typical of this condition. Tests requested will include:
- Computed tomography.
- Ultrasonography, both transcutaneous and endoscopic.
- Retrograde cholangiopancreatography.
- Magnetic resonance.
- Positron emission tomography.
- Biopsy of the lesion (this is the definitive test, which identifies the type of cells that cause this condition).
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer
- Overweight and obesity.
- Smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products.
- Chronic pancreatitis. It is the inflammation of the pancreas on several occasions.
- Parents or siblings with pancreatic cancer.
- Mellitus diabetes.
Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
The treatment of this medical condition will depend on the stage or stage in which it is at the time of its diagnosis. When the disease is limited to the pancreas and has not invaded neighboring organs, the organ is extirpated or removed.
surgical recession. Removal of the pancreas to prevent the spread of the disease and cure the patient.
palliative treatments. Aimed at improving the patient’s living conditions and reducing symptoms, pain management, decompression of the digestive tract, nutritional support, etc.
Radiotherapy. Application of ionizing radiation on the affected area, to reduce the size of the tumor mass and eventually destroy it.
Irreversible membrane electro perforation. Placement of small electrodes and currents that pierce or open holes in the cell membrane destroying malignant cells.
Microwave. Use of microwaves to achieve the reduction or destruction of the tumor mass.
High intensity localized ultrasound. It uses shock waves generated by ultrasound or high-frequency sound waves focused on the area where the tumor is located, to destroy its cells.
- Pancreatic Cancer Treatment & Management: Approach Considerations, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant Therapy. (2018). Accessed through https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/280605-treatment
- Pancreatic cancer. (2018). Accessed through https://www.cancer.gov/espanol/tipos/pancreas/paciente/tratamiento-pancreas-pdq
- Wong, M. Jiang, J. Liang, M. et al.(2017) Global temporal patterns of pancreatic cancer and association with socioeconomic development. Published online 2017 June 9. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02997-2 Accessed through https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-02997-2
- Pancreatic Cancer (2018). Accessed through https://www.cancerquest.org/en/for-patients/cancer-by-type/pancreatic-cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer – Symptoms and Signs. (2018). Accessed through https://www.cancer.net/es/tipos-de-c%C3%A1ncer/c%C3%A1ncer-de-p%C3%A1ncreas/s%C3%ADntomas-y-signs