The IndUS Network e-magazine

Silent Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness


Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells. Pancreatic cancer has gained attention from the diagnoses of several prominent figures, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who was diagnosed in 2003 and died Oct. 5, 2011. Jobs had an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of the disease. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and actor Patrick Swayze have also faced pancreatic cancer. Swayze died in 2009. The lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 71.

What and where is the Pancreas?

“The Pancreas is about 6 inches long and located across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach. The head of the pancreas is on the right side of the abdomen and is connected to the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine) through a small tube called the pancreatic duct. The narrow end of the pancreas called the tail extends to the left side of the body.

Pancreas is a gland organ in the digestive and endocrine system of vertebrates. It is both an endocrine gland producing several important hormones, including insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin, as well as an exocrine gland secreting pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes that pass to the small intestine. These enzymes help in the further breakdown of the carbohydrates, protein, and fat in the chime (a semi solid mass of food).

Exocrine glands are the glands that secrete their products into ducts; these are the counterparts to endocrine glands, which secrete their products directly into the bloodstream.

Nature of Pancreatic Cancer:

Pancreatic Cancer is difficult to detect early and kills most patients within six months of diagnosis. United States accounts for nearly 40,000 pancreatic cancer deaths in a year. The pancreas has many different types of cells, each of which can give rise to a different type of tumor (cancer growth). The most common type arises from the cells that line the pancreatic duct. These cells are usually few and so no early symptoms are evident. Pancreatic Cancer is often in an advanced stage by the time it is discovered. These cancers often first spread to the liver, but they can spread to other organs and tissues also. The symptoms of cancer hence depend on where the cancer is growing. A lung metastasis or spread can cause breathing problems, cough etc., Bone metastasis will cause bone pain.

Signs and symptoms to Watch:

Most pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumors (90%). Their symptoms can be very vague and depend on whether the tumor is in the head, body, or tail of the pancreas.

1. Jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin.
2. Itchy skin, palms, and soles of feet.
3. Unusually pale, bulky, greasy stool that floats in the toilet due to fat indigestion.
4. Nausea, vomiting, weight loss.
5. Abdominal pain that worsens after eating.
6. Blood clots or fatty tissue abnormalities.
7. Problems with sugar metabolism.
8. Fever and shivering.

About 5% of pancreatic Cancer is due to endocrine tumors that develop in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. They are two types-functioning and non-functioning tumors. If they overproduce hormones and cause a chemical syndrome, then they are functioning tumors. Depending on the hormones they produce, the tumors are named accordingly.

9. Gastrinomas-- severe pain, black tarry stools and diarrhea
10. Glucagonomas—skin rash, anemia, weight loss, inflammation inside lips and cheeks.
11. Insulinomas.—hypoglycemia (weakness, drowsiness, dizziness or lack of energy).
12. Somatostatinomas-- gall stones, diabetes, diarrhea and fatty stools
13. VIPomas—flushing of face, watery diarrhea, and hypertension.
14. PPomas—abdominal pain, enlarged liver, watery diarrhea.
15. Carcinoid tumors--flushing, diarrhea, wheezing, and a rapid heart rate and in due course will damage heart valves, causing shortness of breath, weakness, and a heart murmur.

Order of the Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer:

1. Physician’s examination and lab tests.
2. Imaging studies like CT, MRI, Ultrasound or PET scans.
3. Tumor resection or taking the actual tissue from the tumor mass (biopsy) for staging of the tumor (Stages 0 to IV)

Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer:

Depending on the stage of the tumor, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation is carried out to extend one’s survival.

Prevention of Pancreatic Cancer:

Stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and choosing a healthy diet is important. Pancreatic Cancer sure has some connection to one’s genes. So, prevention/early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is a lot dependent on identifying the vulnerable person.

Watch the Video: Prevention and Genetics

Exposure to cell phone radiation during pregnancy can cause hyperactivity and inattention.


A research done at Yale School of Medicine this year have determined that exposure to radiation from cell phones during pregnancy affects the brain development of offspring, potentially leading to hyperactivity and inattention (like ADHD). The study was performed on pregnant rats and their offsprings.

Disclaimer: The above content is provided for information and awareness purpose only. It is not prescriptive or suggestive or meant to replaces your qualified physician's advice or consultation.