About this disease
What it concerns
The pancreas is responsible for producing vital enzymes and hormones for digestion and metabolism. Pancreatic cancer usually develops in the ducts of the pancreas. The causes are as yet unclear. Risk factors include alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity. Most of those affected are 70 years and older. Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, but often develops very rapidly without treatment.
The vast majority of all pancreatic carcinomas are so-called adenocarcinomas. They arise from mucus-forming cells of the pancreas. More rarely, endocrine or neuroendocrine tumor forms are found in the pancreas. These form from hormone-producing cells.
Symptoms and consequences
Pancreatic cancer usually only causes symptoms at an advanced stage, which makes early detection much more difficult. If the pancreatic cancer is located in the head of the pancreas, symptoms such as a sudden yellowing of the skin, known as jaundice, may occur. If the cancer is located in the tail of the pancreas, there are usually only minor symptoms such as loss of appetite with weight loss or mild upper abdominal pain over a longer period of time.
How we can help you
Examination and diagnosis
If several symptoms are present, firstly a computer tomography (CT) scan will usually be performed. During a gastroscopy, a tissue sample is taken from the pancreas and analyzed in the laboratory. By means of ERCP, an endoscopic examination method, tissue can also be extracted from the bile duct and the bile flow can be restored by inserting a stent. As a tube-like plastic or metal support, the stent expands the compressed bile ducts again and keeps them open from the inside against the pressure of the tumor.
If the tumor is well demarcated, it can usually be removed surgically. Surgery is usually followed by chemotherapy. Advanced pancreatic carcinomas that have already spread and metastasized to other organs can no longer be cured. However, further progression of the disease can be delayed with the help of drug therapies. In the case of local progression of the disease, radiotherapy in combination with the administration of analgesics can achieve very good local pain control.