In most cases pancreatic cancer is identified in the end stage, or stage IV. End stage pancreatic cancer is accompanied with jaundice, pain in the abdomen, weight loss and depression. Since pancreatic cancer spreads rapidly, 95% of patients diagnosed with this disease do not survive for 5 years.
Pancreatic Cancer Overview
The pancreas is an organ located in the upper abdomen, behind the abdomen. It has two main functions, namely to produce and release enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that regulate blood sugar levels (insulin and glucagon).
Pancreatic cancer is cancer that begins in the tissues of pancreas. This cancer may develop either in the exocrine tissues or endocrine tissue of the organ. Cancer that originates in the exocrine glands of the pancreas is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. It comprises 95% of all pancreatic cancer cases. Also, more than 70% cancers of the pancreas arise from the head and neck segment of the pancreas.
Pancreatic cancer is more common in men than in women. People with family history as well as people suffering from obesity, diabetes and chronic pancreatitis are at risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Other risk factors include smoking, older age and unhealthy diet.
Symptoms of End Stage Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is aggressive type of cancer that rapidly spreads. It is typically asymptomatic in initial stages and is most often diagnosed when it reaches end stage. According to medical data, 6 percent of cancer-related deaths are caused by pancreatic cancer. Also, this type of cancer is fourth leading cause of death.
Pancreatic cancer first metastasizes to the nearby lymph nodes. Then, the cancerous cells spread to the liver, lungs, stomach, duodenum and colon. In rare cases, pancreatic cancer spreads to the skin, brain and bones. At the time of diagnosis, metastasizes to nearby tissues are found in more than 25% patients with pancreatic cancer whilst in around 52% patients the cancer has spread to distant organs.
The end stage pancreatic cancer is also called metastatic pancreatic cancer or stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The end stage pancreatic cancer is the cancer that spreads to other organs. It causes non-specific and vague symptoms that often resemble symptoms of other conditions. Common symptoms of end stage pancreatic cancer include:
- Sharp pain in the upper abdomen
- Sudden weight loss
- Severe skin itching
Diagnosis and Treatment of End Stage Pancreatic Cancer
In order to diagnose pancreatic cancer a doctor must rule out other diseases accompanied with symptoms similar to those of pancreatic cancer. Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer includes physical exam, blood test and imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scan and MRI scan of the abdomen. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will perform a biopsy.
End stage pancreatic cancer is not operable because the tumor has already spread throughout the body. Instead, it is treated with chemotherapy which involves medications and intravenous injections. Chemotherapy is given to control the pain and prolong life for patients with end stage pancreatic cancer.