Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas-an organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach. Your pancreas produces enzymes that break down food and hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer usually begins in the cells that produce the enzymes.
Pancreatic cancer does not cause symptoms right away, and when it does, they are often vague or go undetected. Symptoms include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Pain in the abdomen and back
- Weight loss and fatigue
Keep in mind, many diseases and conditions other than cancer may cause similar signs and symptoms. Dr. Bhatti will check for these conditions as well.
Pancreatic cancer is hard to find early, because the pancreas is deep inside the body. Often early tumors cannot be seen or felt during routine physical exams, so Dr. Bhatti may perform several other tests to confirm a diagnosis. These include:
- CT scans or CT-guided biopsies
The stage of a pancreatic cancer (or how far the cancer has spread) is the most important factor in choosing treatment options. Dr. Bhatti specializes in precise cancer staging, which takes place during or immediately after diagnosis.
Treatment will vary depending upon the results of your cancer staging.
Sometimes, cancers growing in the head of the pancreas can block the common bile duct as it passes through this part of the pancreas. This can cause pain and digestive problems, because bile can't get into the intestine. The bile chemicals will also build up in the body. This can cause jaundice, nausea, vomiting, and other problems. To relieve bile duct blockage, Dr. Bhatti may recommend stent placement.
This is the most common approach to relieving a blocked bile duct and does not involve actual surgery. Instead, a stent (small tube) is placed inside the duct to keep it open. This is usually done through an endoscope (a long, flexible tube). Often this is part of an ERCP.
Pancreatic cancer spreads quickly, and early diagnosis is very important. Regular exams are highly recommend, particularly for people who have a family history of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Bhatti is board-certified and has decades of experience treating patients throughout the state of Minnesota.
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