Pancreatic cancer is hard to be recognized in its earlier stages as its signs and symptoms may resemble vague gastrointestinal complaints. Pain in the abdomen or back is its common symptom. It is mostly intermittent initially, that is, it comes and goes. But with time, it becomes more frequent. The abdominal pain is most often due to the tumor pressing on the nearby organs. It can be worse when lying down, and you can sometimes feel better when you sit leaning forward. It may worsen after eating. Back pain may arise if the tumor spreads to the nerve surrounding the pancreas and if it has grown so much that it presses on the spine.
What are the other signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
- Loss of appetite or feeling full even after eating a little
- Unintentional weight loss
- Yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes
Unusual signs include
- Fatigue: fatigue is a common symptom found in other types of cancer as well.
- The new and unusual onset of diabetes: Pancreatic cancers may destroy the insulin-producing cells. This can increase your blood sugar levels and lead to newly diagnosed diabetes. If you already suffer from diabetes which is under control, you may suddenly develop an uncontrolled form of diabetes.
How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects some abnormality, they will order tests that include
Computerized tomography (CT) scan
CT scans can show the pancreas fairly clearly. Hence, they are often used as confirmatory tests to diagnose pancreatic cancer. A special type of CT known as a multiphase CT scan or a pancreatic protocol CT scan is especially used for this purpose. You will be administered an injection of an intravenous (IV) contrast.
A long needle may be inserted into your pancreas to take a small piece of your pancreas. During this procedure, CT is used to guide the needle into the pancreas. The sample of the pancreas is then sent to the laboratory for examination under a microscope. This procedure is known as CT-guided biopsy.
Special types of MRI scans, namely, MR cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) can be used to look at the pancreatic and bile ducts.
US, particularly the abdominal US, is a simple test that does not use radiation. It is often the first test used to look at the organs for complaints such as abdominal pain. But the final diagnosis rests with a CT scan.
The endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) test is more accurate than the abdominal US. For this test, a small US probe on the tip of a thin, flexible tube is inserted through a small incision into your abdomen to look for signs of pancreatic cancer. A small piece of the tumor may also be removed (biopsy) and sent to the laboratory to check for cancerous cells.
This imaging test looks for the blockage, narrowing or dilation in the pancreatic ducts and bile ducts.
In this test, a dye is injected into an artery leading to the pancreas. This highlights any problems in your blood vessels around the pancreas and shows them up on an X-ray.
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Pancreatic Cancer. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/280605-overview
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