Pancreatic cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the tissues of the pancreas, which is an endocrine organ located behind the stomach. The pancreas has a very significant role in digestion by manufacturing enzymes that the body needs to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Glucagon and insulin are two essential hormones that are produced by the pancreas. These two hormones completely control the metabolism of glucose. Insulin helps in the metabolism of glucose for energy production, while glucagon elevates the glucose levels when they are too low.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Pancreatic Cancer In A Woman? – An Overview
According to research done by the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer accounts for around 3 percent of cancer cases and 7 percent of deaths in the United States. The worst part is that detection of pancreatic cancer can be difficult due to its location. Hence, it is often a very late diagnosis in most cases.
In this article, we will be providing you how this disease can affect a woman. From talking about the symptoms to discussing the risk factors in detail, we will be covering all that is important for a population to know about pancreatic cancer.
Signs & Symptoms Of Pancreatic Cancer In Woman
Our pancreas is one of those body organs that most of us neglect or the worst are – some of you do not know about it unless informed. It’s only six inches long and buried discreetly beneath your stomach. Usually, this organ, as mentioned above, functions invisibly. However, if it stops working or functioning, it can have a major impact on your entire system.
The reason why today we are discussing pancreatic cancer in a woman is because of their habit of neglecting everything until it’s worst. This is very common in the case of the pancreas. It is because it is located deep beneath an organ; and two, it is not much talked about. Hence, today, let us begin with a list of symptoms that can trouble you if cancer has started conquering your pancreas. They might be mild at the beginning but can become trouble within no time.
Let us begin with the most common signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Early Warning Signs Of Pancreatic Cancer
- Digestion problems, like abnormal stools, recurrent nausea, excessive vomiting
- Dark-colored urine
- Appetite loss
- Severe pain in the upper abdomen
- Blood clots
- Swollen gallbladder
Symptoms Of Pancreatic Cancer
- Constant Bloating Become Normal
Bloating becomes very normal after you have had a meal. However, remaining for a long time is not healthy at all. Pancreatic tumors can cause your stomach to distend as they become larger. Women typically notice this as one of the first indicators, but most do not report it to their doctor because bloating appears to be a minor concern. Experts believe that it is important to get examined. It’s probably not cancer, but it’s better to be safe than sorry if it is.
- Yellowing Of Skin and Eyes
Yellowish discoloration on the skin and the whitish part of the eyes is not good for any individual. It could indicate various medical issues, such as those related to alcoholism, liver failure, and pancreatic cancer. According to doctors, many pancreatic cancers begin in the head of the pancreas, which is close to the bile duct.
Extremely small tumors can put a lot of pressure on it and obstruct the bile duct, which is responsible for transporting bile from the gallbladder and liver to the small intestine through the pancreas. Bile’s function is to eliminate bilirubin, which is a normal waste product of red blood cells. If the bile duct cannot do so, the excess bilirubin causes jaundice and yellow eyes. This is one symptom you should never ignore, irrespective of the cause.
- Excessive Weight Loss
Rapid weight loss, defined as dropping more than 5% of one’s body weight in six months to a year, can easily result from a loss of appetite. If you can’t explain your weight loss through other methods, you should consult a doctor.
Dark-colored urine indicates dehydration, and it is also the initial sign of jaundice for many patients. According to the American Cancer Society, the urine turns brown as the tumor leads less bile to be secreted from the bile duct and bilirubin levels in the blood to rise.
If doubling your water consumption doesn’t restore your urine back to its normal light yellow color, it’s time to see a doctor because constant jaundice is a sign of pancreatic cancer.
- Upper Abdomen/Back Pain
Pancreatic cancer patients often experience abdominal pain when tumors that have expanded add strain on nearby organs, causing discomfort and anguish. These tumors are known to trigger pain in the patient’s back, which usually occurs as a result of cancer which is spreading to the nerves around the pancreas. Back and abdominal pain can suggest various illnesses other than pancreatic cancer, so speak with your doctor if you’re in pain.
- Vomiting And Nausea
Patients suffering from pancreatic tumors towards the end of the stomach could have experienced nausea, vomiting, and increased pain after eating. It is probably because; the tumors may partly block the normal passage of food through the digestive system.
- Itchy Skin
Itchy skin is a symptom of jaundice as well as pancreatic cancer. It might occur as bilirubin accumulates in your skin until it turns yellowish. If you can’t say exactly the source of your itchings, such as insect bites or an allergic response, or if any lotion doesn’t help, see a doctor.
- Abnormal Stools
Stool that is grey, light-colored, or slimy is as unhealthy as it is unpleasant. The cause is once again linked to bilirubin. It is indeed passed via your bowels as feces, which gives fecal matter its dark brown hue. If there is insufficient bile because of such a tumor, the bilirubin remains in your system rather than passing via your stool. Pancreatic cancer is one possibility, but other possibilities are awful, so if your poop is constantly light, see your doctor real soon.
Causes Of Pancreatic Cancer
When the DNA of your pancreatic cell is damaged, pancreatic cancer develops. One cancer cell multiplies and expands rapidly, forming a tumor that exceeds an organ’s normal boundaries. Cancer cells spread throughout your blood and lymph system if you don’t get therapy on time. Nobody knows how and why the DNA of a cell gets destroyed. When pancreatic tumors are removed and analyzed, doctors find mutations that occur due to alterations in genes.
- Acquired Gene Mutation
After your birth, your genes do undergo a lot of mutations. They can change when you come into contact with substances such as those found in cigarette smoke or alcohol. Other mutations occur at random as your cells replicate and divide your DNA.
- Inherited Gene Mutation
Mutations that increase your risk of pancreatic cancer can be passed down from parents to children. Specialists have connected the disorder to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and also genes that are associated with colorectal cancer and other diseases. These mutations cause up to 10% of pancreatic cancer cases.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes pancreatic cancer, although some risk factors appear to be present.
- Age and Gender
Males are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than females. Pancreatic cancer can occur to anyone at any age, including children, but it is more common after the age of 55.
- Medical Factors
Pancreatic cancer is more likely in those who have the following medical conditions.
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Stomach infection caused by ulcer-causing bacteria, Helicobacter pylori
- Genetic Disorders
The following genetic disorders have been linked to pancreatic cancer:
- Lynch syndrome
- von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- Lifestyle Elements
Some lifestyle habits also play a role in the development of pancreatic cancer.\
- Excessive weight
- Alcohol consumption
- Red meat
- No physical activity
- Drinking two or more carbonated drinks in a day
- Chemical Exposure
If you work in the metal or manufacturing industries and come into contact with a lot of chemicals, your risk may be increased.
Complications from pancreatic cancer can occur due to a variety of causes, such as strain on adjacent structures, a shortage of hormones that are generated by normal pancreatic cells, or tumor metastases to other parts of the body. The following are the complications:
- Blood Clots
The blood clots that split off and migrate to the lungs (pulmonary emboli) are a complication of pancreatic cancer. They’re very prevalent at almost every stage of the illness. Patients with pancreatic cancer are also more prone than people with other cancers to experience bleeding when taking blood thinners; therefore, therapy must be monitored closely.
- Pancreatic Insufficiency
Pancreatic cancer is most commonly found in the cells that manufacture pancreatic enzymes. These enzymes neutralize stomach acid and help in the metabolism of food, proteins, and carbs, which are produced by the pancreas on a daily basis. When a tumor takes over all these cells, the absence of enzymes can lead to malabsorption, stomach cramps, and malnutrition.
- Bile Duct Obstruction
Obstruction of the common bile duct is a very common complication of pancreatic cancer that can occur even before the diagnosis. Endoscopy, a process that includes introducing a tube into the mouth and threading it down and into the common bile duct, can be used to install a stent when surgery is not possible.
Cancer cachexia is a syndrome characterized by muscle atrophy, weight loss, and a lack of appetite, even though it is likely to happen before any weight loss. It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of people with pancreatic cancer have it at the time of diagnosis.
Treatment Options Of Pancreatic Cancer
The stage of the disease determines treatment for pancreatic cancer. It has two objectives: to kill malignant cells, and the second is to stop the disease from spreading. The different types of treatments for such a patient are:
If the pancreatic tumor is localized at the time of diagnosis, it may be possible to remove all or a part of the pancreas to remove the cancer cells. The following are the three most common surgical methods for pancreatic cancer:
- Distal Pancreatectomy
The surgeon removes a portion of the pancreas and the spleen in distal pancreatectomy.
- Total Pancreatectomy
The entire pancreas and spleen are removed during a total pancreatectomy. Although a person can live without a pancreas, diabetes can occur if the body’s insulin cells stop producing.
- Whipple Procedure
Surgery involves the removal of the pancreas head and, at times, the entire pancreas, along with a part of the stomach, lymph nodes, duodenum, and other tissue.
Once cancer spreads beyond the pancreas, other treatment options should be considered. X-rays and other high-energy beams are used in radiation therapy to kill cancer cells.
In certain situations, your surgeon may integrate other therapies with chemotherapy, which involves the use of cancer-killing drugs to help stop cancer from spreading.
A doctor injects a chemical into an artery that prevents blood from reaching the cancer cells during embolization. These cells will die if they don’t have access to blood.
Final Verdict On The Symptoms Of Pancreatic Cancer
When found early, pancreatic cancer can certainly be cured. A part of the entire pancreas can be removed using the Whipple technique or pancreatectomy surgery. The initial cancer tumor can be removed as a result of this. However, most pancreatic cancers are not discovered and identified until they have progressed beyond the site of origin.
Once pancreatic cancer is progressed, surgery may no more be an option. Removing the tumor or pancreas will not cure you if cancer has progressed to other parts of your body. Alternative treatment methods should be considered.