8. Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer
Persons over the age of 65 have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Men and those of African American descent are slightly more likely to acquire this cancer. Certain diseases such as pancreatitis, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and stomach ulcers may increase the likelihood of an individual developing pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer may also be linked to genetics. While many of these risk factors are uncontrollable, others are within your ability to prevent. Pancreatic cancer risk is higher for smokers, overweight individuals, and those who are exposed to certain industrial chemicals.
7. Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer
If pancreatic cancer is suspected, your physician will conduct a physical exam and take your medical history. Your physician will probably order imaging tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound. These tests allow your physician to visualize your pancreas, blood vessels, and bile ducts. Your doctor may use an endoscope to further inspect your bile ducts. If jaundice is present, liver function tests may be done to determine the origin of the jaundice. Blood tests for the tumor marker CA 19-9 are helpful in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. If all of these tests point to pancreatic cancer, a biopsy may be necessary. This requires removing a small portion of pancreatic tissue for testing.
6. Surgery for Pancreatic Cancer
Treatment for pancreatic surgery consists of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or any combination of the three. When considering surgery, a staging laparoscopy will help determine which type of surgery is needed. Pancreatic cancer has often spread to other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed. Therefore, it is often too late to completely remove the cancer through surgery. The Whipple procedure is a surgery to remove the head of the pancreas and is the most common operation for exocrine pancreatic cancer. Less common surgeries are to remove only the tail of the pancreas or the entire pancreas. If the cancer is too widespread to be completely eradicated, palliative surgery is an option. In this case, the cancer is not completely removed, but enough is removed to decrease pain.