Pancreatic cancer forms when cells in the pancreas change and multiply abnormally. This cancer can interfere with the working of the pancreas and may invade nearby organs. Pancreatic cancer may also spread to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis. The more cancer spreads, the harder it is to treat.
The pancreas is a gland (an organ that makes substances the body needs) located in the abdomen (stomach area). One of its jobs is to make pancreatic enzymes, which travel to the colon to help digest food. The pancreas also makes insulin, a hormone that helps control the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
If your pancreas suddenly becomes irritated or inflamed, you have acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is often very painful. Emergency medical treatment is usually needed.
Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer
Surgery to remove the pancreas and sometimes surrounding tissue. Radiation therapy, which uses directed rays of energy to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy, which uses strong medications to kill cancer cells.
Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis
- Severe pain in your upper abdomen to your back
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal swelling and tenderness
- Rapid pulse
- Shallow, fast breathing
Causes of Pancreatitis
- Gallstones are one of the most common causes of pancreatitis. These hard stones form in the gallbladder, an organ located near the pancreas. These two organs share a passage into the small intestine called the common bile duct. Fluid can’t leave the pancreas if gallstones block this duct. The fluid backs up and causes pancreatitis.
- Alcohol, certain medications, trauma and infection can also cause pancreatitis.
- Problems with the structure of the pancreas may also be a cause
Treating Acute Pancreatitis
If you have acute pancreatitis, you may be in the hospital for a few days. For part of this time, you likely won’t be allowed to eat or drink. This lets your pancreas rest and heal. You will receive nutrition and fluids through an intravenous (IV) line. Medications are given to help ease any pain.
If the pancreas stays inflamed for a long time, chronic pancreatitis may result. Common symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
Possible complications of chronic pancreatitis include the following:
- Malnutrition (not absorbing enough nutrients)
- Pancreatic cancer (rare)
Treatment for chronic pancreatitis includes the following:
- Medications to help the pancreas work
- Treatment for gallstones
- Avoiding alcohol