The symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer are often not visible in the early stages. This can make it hard to diagnose early. But as the cancer grows, it may start to cause symptoms. These will depend on the type of Pancreatic Cancer and where it is in the pancreas.
Pancreatic Cancer symptoms and how bad they are can vary for each person. They sometimes include:
- abdominal and back pain
- unexplained weight loss
- loss of appetite
- change to bowel habits
- recently diagnosed diabetes
- difficulty swallowing
- nausea and vomiting
These symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer have numerous other causes, making it difficult to diagnose the disease before it is in an advanced stage.
Cancers of the pancreas are also associated with Trousseau’s sign – spontaneous blood clots formed in the portal blood vessels, deep veins of the arms and legs, or other superficial veins. Clinical depression is another symptom that is sometimes reported before the cancer is diagnosed.
If the cancer spreads, or metastasizes, additional symptoms can present themselves in the newly affected area. Symptoms of metastasis ultimately depend on the location to which the cancer has spread.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, your treatment will depend on the type and location of your cancer, and how far it’s advanced. Your age, general health and personal preferences will also be taken into consideration.
The first aim will be to completely remove the tumour and any other cancerous cells. If this isn’t possible, treatment will focus on preventing the tumour from growing and causing further harm to the body.
Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer depends on age, general health, the size and location of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. You may receive one type of treatment or a combination.
Generally, the most common treatment options usually include:
- Surgery – is used when the cancer has not spread beyond the pancreas. The cancer and part of the pancreas and part of the small bowel are removed in an operation called ‘Whipple’s resection’. Some of the bile ducts, gallbladder and stomach may also be removed. This is major surgery and you need to be fit enough to have it.
- Chemotherapy – anti-cancer medications (either tablets or injections into the veins) may be used after surgery. The drugs work by stopping cancer cells growing and reproducing. Chemotherapy may be given with surgery or alone to help control the symptoms of an advanced cancer.
- Radiotherapy – the use of x-rays to target cancer cells may be used after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that might remain in the body. Radiotherapy can also be used as the main treatment when surgery is not possible, in combination with chemotherapy.
- Complementary and alternative therapies – it’s common for people with cancer to seek out complementary or alternative treatments. When used alongside your conventional cancer treatment, some of these therapies can make you feel better and improve quality of life. Others may not be so helpful and in some cases may be harmful.
All treatments have side effects. These will vary depending on the type of treatment you are having. Many side effects are temporary, but some may be permanent.
Should you be suffering from Pancreatic Cancer, or know someone who is, and don’t think conventional treatment will be the most suitable option, please contact us and we will be of assistance.