Pancreas is an endocrine as well as an exocrine gland of our digestive system that is responsible for producing hormones and pancreatic juices, rich in various enzymes. The hormone insulin functions in absorption of blood glucose by the body cells, the absence of which is seen in diabetes type 1.
Glucagon, another hormone produced by this gland assists in releasing glucose from the body cells into the blood. The enzymes in pancreatic juice are digestive in nature and aid in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
The malignant neoplasm of pancreatic cells is known as pancreatic cancer. About 95 % of these tumors are adenocarcinomas that arise from the exocrine component of the gland. Neuroendocrine tumors are rare and arise from the islet cells of pancreas. People who are at the risk of pancreatic cancer are those who possess certain genes for it, that is, they would have a family history. Smoking, alcohol, low vegetable and fruit intake, high intake of meat, obesity and diabetes mellitus are some other risk factors for carcinoma of the pancreas.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms
The cancer of pancreas is highly lethal. It ranks fourth amongst the cancer-related deaths worldwide. The symptoms of this carcinoma usually appear in the later stages, that is, when the disease is advanced. However, some of the early as well as late pancreatic cancer symptoms are mentioned as follows.
1. Unexplained Weight Loss
Weight loss up to 2 to 3 kg’s without any apparent reason can indicate an underlying disease. Unexplained weight loss is a common symptom of many cancers. In case of pancreatic cancer, malnutrition may take place as for the reason that pancreas are responsible to produce certain digestive enzymes. The function of these enzymes involves breaking down of food particles to help the body absorb nutrients. Pancreatic cancer may affect the production of these enzymes that can in turn affect the body’s nutritional state.
Pain anywhere in the body usually indicates that something is going wrong. Hence, pain is said to be a blessing as it indicates towards a disorder. Pancreas is in the upper portion of our abdomen. Thus, cancer affected pancreas can cause discomfort and pain in that area. Pain may also spread to the back. In the initial stages, pain tends to come and go but becomes persistent as the cancer advances. Pain can also occur while eating or lying down. Hence, unusual pain in the upper abdomen must not be ignored if it occurs in a person.
The tumor of pancreas may also obstruct the bile duct creating hurdles in the way of passage of bile juice. This can cause jaundice. Bile duct may be obstructed if the tumor is present in the upper part (head) of pancreas. Jaundice is a rare one amongst the pancreatic cancer symptoms. The symptoms of jaundice include yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, nausea, reduced appetite, dark yellow urine and pale colored stools.
Diabetes is caused due to the absence of the function of insulin. This hormone is produced by the beta-cells of pancreas and if there is a pancreatic cancer, the production of insulin might be affected which may lead to diabetes. The common symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, increased urination, an increased hunger, weakness and fatigue.