Aggressive cancer starts in cells of the pancreas

Pancreatic cancer begins in the cells of the pancreas, an organ that sits just behind your lower stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes that help with digestion. It also releases hormones that help control blood sugar. People most at risk for this type of cancer are people who have had diabetes for many years. You may also be at risk for pancreatic cancer if you are a smoker, or if you have a family history of pancreatitis or other inflammatory conditions involving the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer is considered an aggressive form of cancer. Because of the location of the pancreas near other tissues and organs, pancreatic cancer can quickly and easily spread throughout the body.

Symptoms and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer

There are often no symptoms associated with this type of cancer until the disease has progressed, making it more difficult to treat. When there are symptoms, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes or skin)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the abdomen that spreads to the back
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you are concerned about your risk for pancreatic cancer or you're having symptoms that are concerning you, talk with your doctor. He or she will review your health history and discuss your symptoms with you. Additional testing may be needed, such as a CT scan, MRI, endoscopic ultrasound, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and biopsy.

If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your doctor will go over your options with you. Treatment is often a combination of medication and radiation therapy, and in some cases, surgery to remove a tumor or relieve symptoms. Treatment will also depend on your age, overall health, stage of disease, life expectancy, and your own feelings about the risks and side effects of treatment.

At Main Line Health we have a team that can work with you from diagnosis through survivorship to ensure you get the most advanced cancer treatment and support you need.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.