Pancreatic Cancer: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options for a Cancer of the Pancreas


Pancreatic cancer is one of the highly aggressive types of cancer that develop in the tissues of the pancreas, spreading quickly to nearby organs or tissues. This rapid increase of cancer cells may interfere with the normal functioning of the pancreas, leading to a host of symptoms such as abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice, or digestive issues. The exact implication of pancreatic cancer is not yet identified, however, factors such as age, smoking, obesity, family history, and certain genetic mutations are considered the root cause of this malignant tumour in the pancreas. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving the chances of survival as its prognosis is often poor. The best way to understand pancreatic cancer is by understanding its early signs and symptoms. This is where this guide will prove essential. Check out all the information related to pancreatic cancer, its causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

 Although the precise origins of pancreatic cancer are unknown, some risk factors can raise the chance that the condition will manifest itself.

The risk factors of pancreatic cancer are:

    • Smoking
    • Overweight
    • Diabetes
    • Chronic pancreatitis
    • Family history of pancreatic
    • Age
    • Red and processed meats (such as sausage and bacon),  saturated fats, Sugary drinks may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
    • Genetic conditions like Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome. Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch syndrome).

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

There may be no symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer. However, symptoms that may appear as the malignancy worsens include:

    • Abdominal discomfort that might be felt in the upper, middle, or back and that may be constant or sporadic.
    • When a tumour obstructs the bile ducts, it can cause jaundice, characterised by a yellowing of the skin and eyes.
    • Unexpected weight loss that an appetite decrease could accompany.
    • Vomiting and nausea may happen as a result of the tumour pressing against the stomach or small intestine.

Treatment Options for Pancreatic Cancer

    • Surgery: When cancer is localized in pancreas, it is possible to eliminate the cancer cells by removing all or part of the pancreas. Surgery is the only curative option available for pancreatic cancer. The three main surgical procedures for pancreatic cancer are:
      • Whipple procedure/ Pancreaticoduodenectomy: Portion of disease bearing pancreatic head, along with a portion of the stomach, duodenum, bile duct and lymph nodes are excised with anastomosis to restore normal passage.
      • Distal pancreatectomy: Disease bearing last part of the pancreas and  usually spleen are removed.
      • Total pancreatectomy: rarely done surgery, entire pancreas and spleen are removed. Post pancreatectomy diabetes may develop.
    • Palliative surgery: Palliative surgery can help relieve symptoms such as obstructions in the bile duct or duodenum. Bypass so that bile can continue to flow from the liver- Hepaticojejunostomy. Another option is to insert a small stent in the bile duct to keep it open. This is a less invasive procedure using an endoscope. Palliative Gastrojejunostomy to relieve stomach obstruction is also required in some cases.
    • Chemotherapy: Given as adjuvant treatement after aurgery in advance cases, sometimes as Neoadjuvant treatment. In advance metastatic cases palliative chemotherapy is givem
    • Targeted therapy: There are different types of targeted therapy, such as:
      • EGFR inhibitors, which block the EGFR protein
      • PARP inhibitors, which block PARP enzymes
      • NTRK inhibitors

These drugs hit specific targets, so side effects are less.

    • Immunotherapy: It helps the body’s immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. PD-1/ PDL 1 inhibitors are type of immunotherapy against pancreatic cancer.
    • Radiation therapy: High energy rays are given on the cancer cells. May given before surgery in borderline operable cases or after surgery in advance cases. May be an option in localized disease when patient is not fit enough to undergo surgery.

Prevention for Pancreatic cancer

Although it is not always possible to avoid contracting the disease, methods can be used to lower the risk. These include managing underlying medical conditions like diabetes and chronic pancreatitis, quitting smoking, consuming less alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Medications for Pancreatic Cancer

Living with pancreatic cancer might be difficult, but there is assistance available. To handle the physical and psychological effects of the disease, patients and their loved ones can seek assistance from medical professionals, support groups, and other services. In addition, following a treatment plan, leading a healthy lifestyle, and staying up to date on pancreatic cancer research and developments are all crucial.

When to Consult a Doctor

You can also get in touch with the expert Oncology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.


Early detection and prompt treatment are essential for improving the chances of survival in the case of pancreatic cancer. It is pivotal to be fully aware of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and seek prompt medical attention.

Patients and their loved ones can manage the condition and make knowledgeable decisions about their care by being aware of the causes, symptoms, and available treatments for pancreatic cancer. A healthy lifestyle and routine tests can also help lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

While the prognosis for pancreatic cancer may be poor, ongoing research and advances in treatment provide hope for better outcomes in the future.


Q. What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
A. The pancreatic cancer symptoms can change based on the disease’s stage. There could be absolutely no symptoms in the early stages. Abdominal discomfort, which may be constant or intermittent and may be felt in the upper, middle, or back, is one symptom that may appear as cancer advances. When a tumour obstructs the bile ducts, it can cause jaundice, characterised by a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Unexpected weight loss, which may be accompanied by appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting, may result from the tumour pressing on the small intestine or the stomach.

Q. What causes pancreatic cancer?
A. Even though the precise causes of pancreatic cancer are poorly understood, several risk factors exist. Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors which can harm the pancreatic DNA. A family history of pancreatic cancer, obesity, chronic pancreatitis, and specific genetic abnormalities are additional risk factors. Diabetes is another risk factor since it increases the likelihood that a person may develop pancreatic cancer. Finally, exposure to specific toxins and chemicals may also increase pancreatic cancer risk, though more research is required to understand these connections completely.

Q. How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
A. Pancreatic cancer is identified through imaging studies and a tumour biopsy. Imaging examinations, including CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans, can assist in finding a pancreatic tumour and evaluating its size and location. During a biopsy, a sample of the tumour’s tissue is removed to check for cancer. Blood tests may also look for high concentrations of specific proteins or enzymes linked to pancreatic cancer. If you have any symptoms or worries regarding pancreatic cancer, speaking with a healthcare provider is crucial.

Q. What is the treatment for pancreatic cancer?
A. The course of treatment for pancreatic cancer is determined by the patient’s tumour stage, location, and general health. Although surgery is frequently the best option for removing the tumour, not all patients are candidates. The tumour may also be reduced in size or allowed to develop more slowly by using chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In some circumstances, newer therapies may be used, including targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Patients with advanced or terminal pancreatic cancer may also receive palliative treatment to help them cope with their symptoms and enhance their quality of life.

Q. Can pancreatic cancer be prevented?
A. Although pancreatic cancer cannot always be avoided, your risk can be decreased by taking certain precautions. Since smoking is a significant risk factor for pancreatic cancer, quitting is one of the most important actions you can take. In addition, you can lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and remaining physically active. Additionally, it’s critical to control long-term conditions like diabetes and chronic pancreatitis, both of which raise the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Regular tests and follow-ups with high-risk individuals may also aid in the early detection of pancreatic cancer when it is more curable.

Approved and Reviewed by Dr. Kaushal Kishor Yadav

Narayana Health

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