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Pancreatic Cancer 

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It’s estimated that more than 43,000 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012, and rates have increased 1.5 percent a year since 2004.

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas (the organ responsible for helping to break down essential nutrients and for producing certain hormones) and is categorized into two main types: exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cancer. Exocrine pancreatic cancer is much more common and begins in gland cells. Endocrine tumors are also known as islet cell tumors or neuroendocrine tumors and occur much more rarely.

Who develops pancreatic cancer?

Factors that increase the risk for pancreatic cancer include:

  • chronic pancreatitis
  • diabetes
  • family history of pancreatic cancer
  • obesity
  • smoking (the biggest risk factor)

High-fat diets, excessive alcohol consumption and genetics are other possible culprits for pancreatic cancer that are still being studied.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Early on, pancreatic cancer may not cause any symptoms. As the disease progresses, you may notice:

  • a change in urine and fecal appearance (dark urine, pale stools); stool that floats in the toilet
  • fatigue
  • jaundice (including the eyes)
  • loss of appetite, “full feeling”
  • middle back pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • unexplained weight loss
  • upper-belly pain

Because these symptoms can also indicate much less serious conditions, see your physician if you experience any of them. Early detection and treatment is key when improving pancreatic cancer survival rates.

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

Your physician will take a thorough medical history and a physical exam. Other possible tests include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans; ultrasounds; endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP); endoscopic ultrasound (EUS); blood tests; and tumor biopsy (removal of tissue for further testing).

How is pancreatic cancer treated?

Surgery (including minimally invasive procedures), radiation therapy and chemotherapy are standard treatments for these types of cancers.

Valley Hospital is proud to offer the latest treatment options for pancreatic cancer, including minimally invasive surgery through its Institute for Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery. For more information, call 201-447-8012.

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