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Symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Functions and diseases of the pancreas

The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes that digest the food you eat and plays a role in making blood sugar control hormones such as insulin and glucagon that control blood sugar in our body. Pancreatic diseases include pancreatic cyst, acute pancreatitis, and chronic pancreatitis, but the scariest one is pancreatic cancer (more specifically, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma). Pancreatic cancer has a 5-year relative survival rate of only 10%, which is the standard of cure. In addition, chemotherapy and surgery are more difficult than other cancers.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect in its early stages because there are no clear symptoms in its early stages. It is not uncommon for a patient to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after a few months without any abnormalities in endoscopy or abdominal ultrasonography during a medical examination. The pancreas is largely divided into three parts: head, body, and tail. The most popular test for pancreatic cancer is an epigastric ultrasound, but cancer in the tail is covered by other organs, making it difficult to diagnose properly. Therefore, if you have symptoms of pancreatic cancer, such as severe abdominal pain, weight loss, or jaundice, or if you are in a high-risk group, it is better to get an accurate examination using computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Screening for pancreatic cancer

It is important to note that there is a possibility of side effects such as allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock in some patients because a contrast medium must be used during CT scan. In addition, there is the disadvantage of exposure to radiation. Because MRI can selectively use a contrast agent, the possibility of side effects is low, there is no concern about radiation exposure, and the diagnosis accuracy is relatively high. However, the cost is high.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer

The main risk factors for pancreatic cancer are chronic pancreatitis, a family history, and long-term smoking and drinking. And if diabetes occurs suddenly at the age of 40-50 years, you can suspect pancreatic cancer. This is because the pancreas secretes insulin to control blood sugar, and if there is a problem with the pancreas, blood sugar control may not be adequate.

Tips to prevent pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is known to be a dreadful disease that is difficult to treat, but if it is detected relatively early, the range of treatment options is widened and the treatment results are improved. Non-contrast pancreatic MRI is recommended for early detection of pancreatic cancer if you have risk factors such as diabetes onset after middle age, obesity, long-term smoking and drinking, and a family history of pancreatic cancer. In addition, smoking has the greatest influence as an acquired cause of pancreatic cancer, so if you want to prevent pancreatic cancer, it is recommended to quit smoking and reduce drinking.

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