Our bodies rely on the development of healthy cells to maintain working order throughout our system, controlling every aspect of our internal functioning. One of the crucial, but often overlooked innards in our bodies is the pancreas, a gad that is vital for the digestive system, producing enzyme rich juices that help the body break down food and absorb the resulting nutrients, plus it generates insulin which helps regulate our blood sugar levels.
Unfortunately, there are real possibilities of cells growing uncontrollably on the pancreas, giving rise to the formation of malignant (cancerous) cells, which will form a lump and is often an aggressive form of cancer. When tumours develop on the pancreas they can emerge all over the glad, on the head, main body, and the tail.
Worryingly there are many different types of pancreatic tumours, though two major strands are most prominent.
The foremost pancreatic tumour, which accounts for roughly 95 out of every 100 cases, is caused by exocrine tumours, the part of the pancreas responsible for producing enzyme rich digestive juices. Known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, tumours of this nature develop on the cell lining of the pancreatic ducts.
Second, are the far less common endocrine tumours (also referred to as neuroendocrine tumours or NETs), the region of the pancreas that chiefly deals with the production and release of hormones that ensures efficient functioning throughout the body. Despite being rarer than exocrine tumours, endocrines affect the hormone production process, though have been shown to be far more likely to be benign.
Symptoms: Pancreatic Cancer
As an internal glad, identifying factors or symptoms that indicate the onset on a tumour on the pancreas can be rather challenging. After all, it’s not like identifying a lump on your breast, witnessing the development of a mole.
Often, pancreatic cancer doesn’t offer any signals which make identifying this cancer extremely tricky to spot though ramps up the importance of being diligent when identifying symptoms.
Thankfully there is a multitude of distinguishable indicators that highlight the potential of a pancreatic tumour. Here is what you should look out for.
Jaundice – the yellowing of your skin and eyes is one of the clearest and earliest signs that action must be taken. Almost all of those who develop the extremely rare ampullary cancer will develop jaundice.
Pain in the upper or middle abdomen, and the back – another common symptom of pancreatic cancer, pain in the aforementioned areas is common, usually originating around the tummy and migrating around to the back. Tumours that grow on the body or tail of the pancreas are the culprits of the pain, as they place pressure on surrounding organs. Though this can be a sign to look out for, do keep in mind abdominal and back pain is a regular occurrence caused by a range of elements including physical exertions.
Weight Loss and Food Digestion Issues – a sudden drop in weight when you’re not focusing on dieting is another obvious barometer that something internally requires urgent attention. As the pancreas is vital in the digestion process, other elements such as indigestion, becoming full after eating smaller portions, feeling bloated, greater levels of wind, and a loss of appetite can also signal cancer, but like the pain in the abdomen and back, are common ailments and not a cause for concern.
Nausea and Vomiting – tied to the growth of pancreatic tumours and their tendency to lean on other local organs, in particular, the stomach. As the growth adds weight onto the stomach, it can block the efficient passing of food, creating pain and nausea.
Blood Clots – one of the less regular signs is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the amassing of a blood clot in a leg vein. The affected leg will become painful, swollen, red, and radiate heat, and in certain cases the clot can break off from the source and head to the ling, causing a pulmonary embolism. Thankfully, blood clotting is easily treatable.
Other signs such as extreme fatigue, and fevers and shivering are indicative of pancreatic cancer, however, the common thread with many of these disorders is that they can be attributed thanks to another bodily ailment. Essentially, don’t jump the gun and instantly believe you’ve got pancreatic cancer.
One condition that can determine severe pancreatic malfunction and progression towards cancer is pancreatitis. This disease falls into two categories – acute and chronic – yet both are categorised as an inflammatory disease. By initiating the digestive enzymes into action early they divert their route into the small intestine, before finally purging the pancreas and attacking the surrounding tissue.
The former is a sudden burst of pain that last a short amount of time causing a range of problems more mild discomfort in projecting the individual into a life-threatening state. In some of the more severe cases reported, acute pancreatitis can result in haemorrhaging into the glad, severe damage to localised tissue, a higher potential for infection, and ground for cyst development.
Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, is a longer-term affliction, normally taking place after a bout of the acute symptoms. External factors have shown to be influential in the causation of chronic pancreatitis, with smoking and heavy alcohol consumption being singled out for their impact.
As with the acute form, chronic pancreatitis has the potential to cause permanent harm and has been cited to cause the appearance of calcium stones and cysts, that’ll be massively disruptive to your pancreatic functioning, blocking ducts and the flow of vital digestive enzymes. Ultimately, this can promote the serious disease of diabetes and propagates malnutrition.
Diagnosing the symptoms of acute and chronic pancreatitis both share an initial comparable feeling; the severe pain you’ll experience in your abdomen. Similarly, the pain in both forms track across the torso in a similar fashion, originating in either centre or centre-left of the tummy before transitioning across your back and increasing in discomfort.
Going forward, both acute and chronic pancreatitis share similar symptoms aligned with pancreatic cancer – nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, jaundice, fatigue, indigestion, and inability to eat sizeable portions.
One key indicator is the latterly mentioned consumption of food. If pancreatitis is on set, you’ll really struggle to ingest and keep down any solids or liquids, in particular, fatty foods can trigger more severe reactions, but sometimes there’ll be no warning before the onset of pain and nausea.
As highlighted earlier, key influencing factors for the establishment and expansion of pancreatitis is the habit of smoking tobacco and consuming high levels of alcohol. Both inputs are celebrated throughout the world and used liberally as relaxants, though all too often that one drink or single cigarette, turns into a binge, which we all know is bad for your lungs and liver, but through the pancreas into the mix is a huge red flag, and the sooner you cut down or even stop, the better.
First, we have to mention alcohol. The demon drink is an all too easy commodity to consume and on a large scale. Regular drinks, let alone heavy drinkers, face a much greater chance of contract pancreatitis. Scientists are still to nail down what exactly it is in alcohol that triggers the effects of pancreatitis, however, it has been suggested that the molecules in drink tamer with the cells located in the pancreas, halting them from the optimal function.
The effects of alcohol on the pancreas are almost exclusively reserved for chronic pancreatitis. If you fall into the ‘heavy drinker’ bracket, you’re chance far likelier to experience regular, recurring episodes of the chronic symptoms, with 7 out of 10 cases linked with long-term heavy boozing. As a result, you can develop the rather unpleasant gallstones, and commits irreversible damage to your system.
Clinical trials in the U.S. have highlighted the huge risk smoking carriers in relation to pancreatic cancer, and more recently refined trials focusing on how smoking affected pancreatitis have provided some less than solid results. Whilst there were intimal difficulties finding results exclusively linking smoking and pancreatitis – due to smoking being a ‘social activity’ often paired with drinking alcohol – reports such there is absolutely an independent link between inhaling tobacco and the development of acute and chronic pancreatitis. Many studies have claimed the research done so far in this field is lacking and more needs to be done to truly identify how lifestyle impacts on the pancreas with plausible outcomes.
It must be noted that alcohol and tobacco intake can also directly contribute, rather unsurprisingly, to the development of tumours and the onset of pancreatic cancer. Once again there is parity between pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, though again in-depth research is sadly lacking, leaving us with little clue how to effectively combat the beast.
By now it’s fairly apparent what you’re putting in your body will directly appease or affect your pancreatitis. Naturally, we should all be careful with our intake and ensuring that we eat a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit for nourishment.
Being wise when you dine may not provide the miracle cure you’re looking to combat pancreatitis, but, it may just help you significantly reduce pain and symptoms, allowing an opportunity to live a fuller existence.
Whilst treatment can vary, with the first port of call being a complete fast which can number from hours into days. Once they are consuming again, it is recommended small, nutritionally balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day are ideal.
Countenance to that is a complete elimination of fast, fried, processed foods, and fatty food as that can trigger an episode. Keep in mind to also stay well clear of dairy products, mayonnaise, and potato chips.
On the other hand, you’ve got plenty of wonderful food to gorge on that’ll settle your cravings, and bolster your battle against pancreatitis. Think fruit and veg, beans and lentils, whole grains, lean meat, and plant-based food, with all these largely natural products doing wonders all across your system.
By upping your good habits vis-a-vis your food and drink intake you’ll be doing your pancreas and body a huge good deed, and the benefits are truly worth making these lifelong changes.