Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms: Causes, Risk Factors And Treatment.

All about Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a chronic condition that occurs due to the overgrowth of cells in the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer symptoms help in diagnosing the disease. The condition can affect the ducts in your pancreas, disrupting its normal functioning. The pancreas is an essential organ for digestion in your body. It is one of the most prominent players of the digestive system, releasing the crucial digestive juices.  

The following sections will explore the various aspects of pancreatic cancer symptoms, such as the causes of its appearance and its treatment.

What Is Pancreas?  

What Is Pancreas?  

The pancreas is an organ that also serves the function of a gland. The glands are a type of organ capable of producing substances known as enzymes. The functions of the pancreas are primarily two:

a- Exocrine function, which is the production of substances that help in digestion and

b- Hormonal function is the production of hormones that can maintain the normal physiological function.

For example, if you are someone who is consuming eggs, its breakdown for absorption is because of pancreas.

What Role Do The Pancreatic Enzymes Play?    

These enzymes secreted by the organ can help break down various macronutrients in the duodenum, such as fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and acids. The enzymes pass through the ducts and enter the bile duct in the inactive form. Their activation is in the duodenum.

The main enzymes known to serve a prominent role in the physiology of humans are glucagon and insulin. Both enzymes help in controlling the levels of glucose in the blood.

What Is Pancreatic Cancer? 

What Is Pancreatic Cancer

The uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas that disrupts the normal functioning of the organ is a condition medically known as pancreatic cancer. Being the most common type of cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma affects the cells lining the ducts. These ducts carry the digestive enzymes out of the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer is rarely found in its early stages. The majority of the pancreatic ducts fall victim to pancreatic cancer. Despite there not being evidence to explain this pattern, it is hard to prevent the growth. The main duct that often displays tumor growth and cancer is the duct of Wirsung.

The tumors in their early stages are not easily visualized under imaging. This is another reason that the diagnosis is delayed. The following sections will dive into the details of the cancer and explore the signs that can help recognize it.

 How Does Cancer Occur? 

 How Does Cancer Occur? 

The start of any cancer is the formation of a tumor. Tumor is a scientific/medical term for a mass that forms due to abnormal division of cells. These cells aggregate due to a defect in the “moderator” that keeps cancer at bay.

  • Supposedly so, sometimes a trigger can move past the ‘checks.’ These checks are known as tumor suppressor genes.
  • When a trigger makes the check faulty- it cannot stop the unnecessary division of cells.
  • Similarly, another mechanism that can cause the development of pancreatic cancer is the activation of oncogenes. These are genes that promote the growth of cells.
  • The activation of these genes is through changes that may or may not be due to changes.
  • In a few cases, some people may have a family history of cancer.  

These changes can be mutations caused by several factors (throwback to elementary biology!) Some elements are UV exposure or chemicals that can cause genetic changes. These changes can be alterations in the DNA.

What Are The Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms 

What Are The Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms 

Following is a list of symptoms that can be telltale signs of the condition:

  1. Pain in the stomach that can feel like it is spreading to the surrounding area, such as the sides or the back.
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Dark urine
  4. Upper abdominal pain
  5. Fatigue
  6. Middle back pain
  7. Jaundice
  8. New-onset diabetes or not being able to control the diabetes

Despite these, there are other symptoms that you may observe in combination with the other ones:

  1. Light-colored stool
  2. Itching
  3. Weight loss
  4. Nausea and vomiting

If you experience any of the signs, then you must reach out to your doctor before self-medicating or self-diagnosing.

What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?  

What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?  

The cause of pancreatic cancer cannot be pinpointed to one or a few reasons. Ongoing research suggests that certain risk factors can elevate the chances of a person developing pancreatic cancer.

Following are the risk factors that can elevate your risk of this cancer:

  • Obesity studies have shown that chronic obesity is a significant risk factor for several cancers, including pancreatic cancer.
  • Smoking is another factor that, when combined with other factors such as obesity.
  • The sudden onset of diabetes is a telltale sign of cancer.
  • Poor diet
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals such as petrochemicals and pesticides
  • Hereditary chronic pancreatitis due to mutations that are inherited.

Diagnosis Of Pancreatic Cancer 

The detection of pancreatic cancer is difficult due to the absence of proper signs in the early stages. Another contributing factor to the delay in diagnosis is the inability of practitioners to feel the pancreas. However, they cannot visualize the tumor through imaging tests.

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer includes the following diagnostic tools:

  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Blood tests to detect tumor markers such as carbohydrate anhydrate 19-9.
  • Staging laparoscopy for determining the extent of the cancer
  • Genetic testing to check for the presence of a mutation in either BRCA1 or BRCA2. This helps in knowing that you are at risk of developing cancer.

Treatment Of Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms 

Treatment Of Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms 

So, to improve the quality of life of the person experiencing the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, doctors treat the symptoms. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer, as listed in the section above, allow doctors to treat them as serious issues.

The treatment options include:

  • Surgery in case of tumors that are resectable or borderline resectable, performing surgery to remove the tumor can help delay the development of cancer.   
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Pain management

In addition, preventing this or any other type of cancer or chronic condition is avoided by avoiding the risk factors. Or reducing the frequency of those activities.

The following are preventative steps that can be helpful:

  • Limit the intake of alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy diet that contains fruits, vegetables, and healthy drinks.  
  • Avoid processed food
  • Limit exposure to chemicals, pesticides, asbestos, and petrochemicals.


The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be challenging to process. However, with the advancement in medical science, it is easier to deal with the diagnosis. The article dives into the cause, development process, symptoms, and treatment options for pancreatic cancer symptoms.  

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Harsha Sharma

Harsha is a senior content writer with numerous hobbies who takes great pride in spreading kindness. Earning a Postgraduate degree in Microbiology, she invests her time reading and informing people about various topics, particularly health and lifestyle. She believes in continuous learning, with life as her inspiration, and opines that experiences enrich our lives.

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