Pancreatic cancer occurs when a malignant tumor grows in the pancreas, the organ responsible for making certain hormones and aiding in digestion. There are two basic types of pancreatic cancer: exocrine tumors and endocrine tumors. Exocrine tumors are the most common type of pancreatic cancer and affect the glands that make and release digestive enzymes. Endocrine tumors are not common. They affect pancreatic islets cells, which make hormones such as glucagon and insulin.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to cure because it tends to spread rapidly and is often diagnosed in later stages. Dignity Health North State offers advanced diagnostics and comprehensive treatments for pancreatic cancer in Northern California. To learn more, Find a Doctor online and schedule an appointment with an oncologist.
Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors
Although experts don’t know exactly what causes pancreatic cancer, there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing it, including:
- Tobacco use
- African American race
- Excess weight
- Age — most people are older than 60
- Male gender
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
- Genetics, including gene mutations
- Certain medical conditions, including chronic pancreatitis, stomach conditions, liver cirrhosis, and diabetes
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms
The pancreas is located behind your stomach, deep in the abdomen. Because it’s hard to feel tumors grow, pancreatic cancer is usually not found in its early stages. Often, pancreatic cancer has spread to other organs by the time people notice symptoms. When symptoms of pancreatic cancer develop, they may include:
- Changes in bowel movements
- Back or abdominal pain
- Blood clots
- Lack of appetite and weight loss
- Digestive problems
- Swelling in the abdomen
Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Options at Dignity Health North State
Your treatment options will depend what type of pancreatic cancer you have and its stage. Standard treatment options include:
- Targeted cancer therapy
With current treatments, it is often hard to cure or eliminate pancreatic cancer. Instead, treatment may aim to control the cancer and ease pain and other symptoms. People with pancreatic cancer may want to consider enrolling in a clinical trial for access to experimental treatments.