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Cancer of the pancreas is a disease that is difficult to detect and treat, and it also may be challenging to understand at times. At the Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center Pancreatic Cancer Center we offer you every advantage available using the most advanced diagnostics, treatments, and research to help you understand your disease, its treatment, and your outlook.
We understand how difficult the journey through cancer may be. Our goal is to support you with a team of knowledgeable, compassionate physicians and staff focused on helping you overcome this disease and providing you hope.
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer forms in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas has two different functions:
- It makes enzymes that help digest food in the small intestine
- It makes hormones, such as insulin, that are secreted into the bloodstream
Most pancreatic cancers arise from cells that make enzymes and are called adenocarcinomas. The risk of pancreatic cancer rises with age, and most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 80.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms
Pancreatic cancer is often difficult to treat because it spreads quickly and is rarely detected in its earliest stages. Patients may sometimes attribute the signs of pancreatic cancer to other ailments. Symptoms may include:
- Jaundice occurs due to the build-up of bilirubin, a substance made in the liver, in the blood. When bilirubin levels rise in the blood the result is yellow skin and eyes.
- Change of color in urine and stool: Bilirubin also may turn urine orange or the color of iced tea and turn stool yellow or reddish or “chalky” or clay-colored.
- Pain may result from the tumor causing pressure on nerves or infiltrating nerves. The pain is typically difficult to describe both in terms of quality and location. It may range from a dull ache to bloating and even a burning sensation. It may be described as abdominal or sometimes in the back or side.
- Indigestion, lack of appetite, nausea, weight loss: Pancreatic tumors may cause some degree of obstruction to the normal flow of food from the stomach into the small intestine. They may also obstruct the normal addition of pancreatic enzymes to food in the bowel, causing poor absorption of nutrients and nausea.
- Sudden-onset diabetes or a sudden change in blood-sugar control in diabetics: Diabetes may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer as well as a risk factor.
- It is important to consult quickly with your physician if you have these symptoms in any combination. The more quickly pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated.
- If your physician suspects pancreatic cancer, he or she may send you immediately to the Pancreatic Cancer Center for further testing and diagnosis. Our high-level, continuous care includes the latest imaging and endoscopic techniques for accurate diagnosis and staging and the development of your personalized treatment plan.