What is Pancreatic Carcinoma?

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  • Written By: Erin Oxendine
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2018
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Pancreatic carcinoma is cancer which attacks the pancreas. This usually terminal disease begins in the pancreas and is often undetected in the early stage. Pancreatic carcinoma advances very fast and is the fourth deadliest type of cancer according to the American Cancer Society.

Certain individuals seem to have an increased risk of developing pancreatic carcinoma. Individuals who use tobacco products have a greater chance of getting pancreatic carcinoma than non-tobacco users. People who eat foods high in saturated fats are also at risk. Other health conditions associated with this disease are diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver. Genetics also play a part in determining if a person will get cancer.

Some of the symptoms that present themselves in the early stages of pancreatic cancer mimic other diseases, making the cancer harder to diagnose. For example, doctors sometimes attribute symptoms of pancreatic carcinoma, such as yellowing of the eyes and skin, to jaundice. Some of the other signs are digestive problems, enlarged gallbladder and pancreatic tumors. Patients who have this disease may also have weight loss due to lack of appetite.


If a doctor suspects a person has pancreatic carcinoma, the doctor will have the patient undergo extensive blood tests and laboratory work. Some of the tests a person will have include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography scan (CT). These procedures take detailed pictures of the organs and detect masses caused by cancer and other illnesses. When an abnormal mass is discovered, a biopsy will be needed to see if it is cancerous. If a tumor tests positive for cancer, the patient will have an oncologist surgically remove the tumor and most likely undergo chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, if the oncologist is not able to get all of the cancer cells the cancer could spread to other parts of the body. The tumor could also be too big to take out for fear of damaging other organs. Doctors diagnose patients as terminal once the cancer spreads to other organs. Patients with pancreatic cancer typically have a survival rate of up to five years.

Doctors recommend routine cancer screening tests in order to catch early stage pancreatic carcinoma. Individuals who are at a higher risk because of contributing factors such as tobacco and alcohol should eliminate these habits. Proper nutrition and exercise are also helpful to prevent serious diseases as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle.



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