Pancreas is the gland located in the upper part of the stomach immediately behind the stomach and has two different functions: synthesizing enzymes that help feed the food in the small intestine and synthesize hormones, such as insulin, which are secreted to blood circulation.
It can cause two types of cancer: adenocarcinoma (which begins in synthetic cells) and neuroendocrine cancer, and the former has a high mortality rate if not detected in time. According to the Ministry of Health, the last figure is about 4.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.
What symptoms should we pay attention to?
Due to the location of the pancreas and its relationship to other organs, the different symptoms depend on the location of the tumor. "Those who are in the pancreas head tend to cause jaundice (skin, sclerosis and other mucous membranes) or dark urine (coluria). This is because they interfere with the outlet duct (common bile duct) that passes through the head of the pancreas, says Felipe Puelma, a digestive surgeon at Clinica Las Condes.
The doctor also explains that tumors in the body and / or tail of the pancreas usually cause several symptoms until they are significant in size. Among the most common are non-specific abdominal discomfort, low weight, lack of appetite and dorsal pain.
Regarding proven risk factors, we found smoking, exposure to heavy metals, nitrosamines and excessive consumption of alcohol and ionizing radiation. While frequent sports activity monitors healthy eating of fresh fruits and vegetables and the adequate supply of vitamin D and omega 3 of marine origin, they are protective factors against this disease, although it improves the prognosis of early diagnosis.
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How is the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer?
As an isolated organ of the digestive system, pancreas brings very late symptomatology, so the diagnosis of cancer usually occurs when it's already late. Accordingly, medical examinations in the case of family history can help early detection, enabling effective attack.
Those who have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer are those who have a family history of variable cancers – especially pancreatic – so they have to stay in preventive control.
Dr. Puelma explains that the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is performed by examinations such as computer tomography of the abdomen and / or magnetic resonance of the abdomen. "In both cases, they can be complementary and must be made with the latest technologies, because they allow better planning of the therapy," he says.
Abdominal ecotomography may be complementary, but it is unlikely to see the entire pancreas due to its location in the abdomen. "Currently, given the increased access to these diagnostic methods, we have seen an increase in patients with solid and cystic tumor pancreatic lesions, which allows us to do the therapies before they have symptoms," says a specialist.
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Early diagnosis and surgery are the best alternative for this cancer. Unfortunately, this is rare, as a significant percentage of patients is advanced lesions. "It is important to emphasize that these patients require therapies provided by multidisciplinary teams (chemotherapy and radiotherapy), which provide hope for results, no matter how progress can be pathology," stresses Dr. Felipe Puelma.
The case of cystic lesions or cystic pancreas is important because they will probably either be transformed into malignant tumors during their evolution. "All these injuries must be assessed by specialists, because adequate therapy can prevent and cure patients who are otherwise consulting with advanced malignant lesions," he says. In these cases it can be indicated from observation, up to the resection of the glands. Everything will depend on the type of injury.