An Introduction to Pancreatic Cancer, its Symptoms and Treatment


An Introduction to Pancreatic Cancer, its Symptoms and Treatment

Sanvi Sachdev, aged 32, is a thriving data analyst working in an MNC. While excelling in her career, she leads a healthy lifestyle consisting of a purely vegetarian diet complemented by an hour of yoga daily. As a teetotaler, Sanvi has put the chronic risk of diseases at bay. Yet, last summer Sanvi developed a strange pattern of symptoms, including constant abdominal pain and a sharp loss of appetite. Upon consultation, she discovered the looming risk of Pancreatic Cancer associated with her symptoms.

However minor, you should never overlook the symptoms of any type of cancer. This article briefly discusses the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures for pancreatic cancer in India.

What is Pancreatic Cancer (PC)?

Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the pancreas. Several changes (or mutations) within the pancreas cells can cause uncontrolled growth of the issue, due to which tissue mass takes form. Generally, this tissue mass is non-cancerous. However, sometimes this tissue undergoes malignant growth and takes the form of PC.

5 Must-know Facts About Pancreatic Cancer

  • Unlike all other cancers, pancreatic cancer (PC) develops rapidly and is generally detected only in the advanced stage.
  • Pancreatic cancer originates in the tissues of your pancreas — a golf-stick-shaped organ behind the stomach. 
  • The pancreas releases pancreatic juice, which contains the enzyme amylase and the insulin hormone. 
  • The amylase enzyme breaks down starches into sugar and aids in digesting it.
  • The insulin hormone help manage your blood sugar levels.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

Though the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is still unknown, the most common risk factors include smoking, excessive drinking, old age, family history, etc. 

Besides, certain preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes, jaundice, or pancreatitis can also gradually lead to PC. Shockingly, even those people with healthy lifestyles have been diagnosed with this cancer. Hence, it is essential to take note of the early warning signals of this disease. 

>> Know More: How Counselling Can Help You Get Through Cancer

Common Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Medical science experts often refer to pancreatic cancer as a “silent killer” since its symptoms often do not appear until the cancer is in the advanced stage.

However, the common pancreatic cancer symptoms include:

1. Abdominal pain

This is one of the most common and first symptoms of cancer in the pancreas. The effect of the abdominal pain associated with PC also feels in the patient’s back. This is because the nerves surrounding the pancreas spread to the back. When the tumour grows, it starts pressing the adjoining organs, which causes discomfort and pain.

2. Loss of appetite

Cancers related to the gastrointestinal tract make swallowing difficult. The patient may feel pain while eating and get a "full feeling" even if their stomach is empty. This ultimately causes a loss of appetite. Besides, tumour releases hormones that pervert your perception of hunger. Loss of appetite in the case of cancer is also combined with stress and dehydration.

3. Change in colour of excreta

The fecal matter gets its brown colour due to a pigment called Bilirubin. During pancreatic cancer stage-1, the bile duct gets blocked, reducing bilirubin levels. Hence, stools become pale-coloured or greyish. On the other hand, bilirubin levels shoot up in the blood, causing the urine to become dark brown. This is also an early sign of jaundice.

4. Itchy skin

An itching sensation may begin if the bilirubin builds up on the skin. Besides, the skin may turn yellow, an early sign of jaundice and PC.

Early Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer Stage-1 

It is advisable not to ignore these early minor symptoms. However, there can be some pancreatic cancer stage-1 symptoms that are more apparent:

1. Blood clots in the body

One of the first visible signs of pancreatic cancer is the formation of a blood clot in a large vein, mainly in the leg. This is referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This may be combined with swelling and pain, redness, and burning sensation in the leg. Sometimes, this clot may rupture and travel to the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing with sharp chest pain. 

2. New or worsening diabetes

Sometimes, pancreatic cancers may suddenly cause diabetes, as the malignant cells kill the insulin-making tissues. In such a situation, a person may feel thirsty and hungry, very often having to urinate.

3. Nausea and weight loss

Tumor growth behind the stomach blocks the food path through the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in nausea and vomiting. Also, low appetite over a long period results in gradual weight loss. 

4. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is caused due to inflammation of the pancreas. Certain unhealthy habits like smoking may result in chronic pancreatitis, i.e., prolonged inflammation of the pancreas, which further may never develop into carcinoma of the pancreas.

Treatment for pancreatic cancer

The prognosis for PC is often poor. Shockingly, the five-year pancreatic cancer survival rate is only 9%. However, pancreatic cancer is curable, and the most commonly used pancreatic cancer treatment methods include: 

  • Surgery 
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Targeted therapy through nanotechnology

As a preemptive measure, early detection and diagnosis are the only ways to nip this cancer type in the bud.

Secure Your Health Against Pancreatic Cancer with Care Health Insurance

The pancreatic cancer treatment cost in India can be anywhere between Rs. 5 lakhs to 12 lakhs. However, the financial burden should not be the reason to delay the treatment, as timely help can save a person’s life. You can easily cope with the pancreatic cancer treatment cost with our Cancer Mediclaim plan. This plan covers all the treatments related to cancer, including Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy. With healthcare benefits like annual health check-ups, no-claim bonus, AYUSH treatment, and ambulance cover, we ensure that your recovery journey is quick and debt-free. Our vast network of cashless hospitals promises a seamless claim settlement experience for cancer patients across India.

Disclaimer: Please verify the policy details and coverage with the official policy documents. Also, kindly consult a professional medical expert to verify the details of health concerns.

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