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Pancreatic Cancer (Pancreatitis)

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The pancreas is an organ about 16-17 cm long, located behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It produces hormones that help control blood sugar levels and digestive enzymes that help break down food. Pancreatic cancer is a fast-moving, poor prognosis cancer that occurs mostly in men and occurs in advanced ages (40-85 years).

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

- Smoking

- Diabetes (diabetes mellitus)

- Obesity

- Long-term intensive alcohol use

- Chronic pancreatitis

- Family history

Most often, pancreatic cancer starts in the cells lining the ducts throughout the pancreas. There are two types of pancreatic tumours: exocrine tumours and endocrine tumours. Exocrine tumours account for 95 per cent of all pancreatic cancer diagnoses. Treatment of exocrine pancreatic tumours may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or a combination of these therapies. Endocrine tumours are less common, accounting for only about 5 per cent of pancreatic tumours. Often called pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) or islet cell tumours, they are found in islet (endocrine) cells distributed throughout the pancreas. These tumours have a better prognosis than exocrine tumours.

Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

Assoc. Dr. Mutlu Ünver graduated from Ege University Faculty of Medicine. Mutlu Ünver, who completed his specialty training at Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Department of General Surgery, serves his patients in his own clinic.

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Assoc.Prof.

Mutlu Ünver

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- Jaundice,

- Abdominal pain,

- Low back pain

- Nausea - vomiting,

- Diarrhoea,

- Foul-smelling faeces,

- Light coloured faeces,

- Fire,

- Involuntary weight loss,

- Symptoms such as general malaise may occur.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

In case of symptoms that raise suspicion of pancreatic cancer, examinations including blood tests, imaging tests such as ultrasonography or computed tomography (CT) and/or an endoscopic examination called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) should be performed. These tests show whether there is a mass (growth) in the pancreas and whether surgery to remove the mass is possible. In some cases, a biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. A biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue from the mass. The biopsy can be performed with a needle under imaging guidance, or it can be obtained using ERCP or endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS). However, if a tumour is seen radiologically in patients with clinical findings such as jaundice, biopsy is not necessary in all cases.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Pancreatic cancer can be treated with several approaches. Early stage pancreatic cancers can usually be treated with surgery. The surgical procedure depends on where the mass in the pancreas is located in the pancreas. The procedure to be applied for a cancer located at the head of the pancreas is an operation called 'Whipple Procedure'. During this operation, the head of the pancreas, part of the stomach, duodenum and gallbladder are removed and new pathways are made. If the cancer is in the tail of the pancreas, the last part of the pancreas is removed with or without the spleen. After the operation, further treatment called "adjuvant therapy" is usually recommended. This may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

In more advanced pancreatic cancer, surgery is not possible; pancreatic cancer is usually in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed. If surgery is not possible, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or both are often used to shrink the cancer, reduce symptoms and prolong life.

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer

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