Know the main symptoms and risk factors

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Pancreatic cancer is considered a relatively rare condition, representing about 2% of all types of disease diagnosed in Brazil. It is usually aggressive and evolves quickly, spreading to other organs. Late diagnosis makes the mortality of this type of cancer high.

“The initial symptoms are usually nonspecific: sometimes it is discomfort in the upper region of the abdomen, or tiredness that can be confused with diseases such as anemia”, explains oncologist Daniel Girardi, from Hospital Sírio-Libanês in Brasília. “As the cancer progresses, the symptoms tend to get more intense and weight loss and jaundice (a condition that makes the skin yellow) can be noticed, due to changes that affect the liver”, he adds.

Therefore, it is important to watch out for any persistent manifestation of one or more of the following signs:

  • Abdominal discomfort;
  • Excessive tiredness;
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice);
  • slimming;
  • nausea;
  • Back pains;
  • dark urine.

Oncologist Alessandra Leite, from the Santa Lúcia hospital, explains that the yellowish color of the skin and eyes and dark urine in the shade of black tea are the most common symptoms.

“Most pancreatic tumors are located in a region we call the head of the pancreas, closer to the liver and bile ducts. When the tumor starts to grow, it compresses the vesicles, which is where bile drains. As the liver secretion cannot enter the intestinal tract, it ends up returning and becomes impregnated in the bloodstream, causing jaundice and dark urine”, explains Alessandra.

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Risk factors

According to National Cancer Institute (Inca)the majority of documented cases are due to genetic predisposition, presented when the patient has other health problems linked to pancreatic cancer, such as Peutz-Jeghers syndrome and hereditary pancreatitis syndrome, or has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer hereditary.

Other factors that may contribute to an increased chance of having the disease are lifestyle habits such as smoking and obesity, or diseases such as diabetes and chronic pancreatitis. In addition, cancer tends to have a higher incidence in people over 40 years of age.

diagnosis and treatment

Oncologist Daniel Girardi points out that, in 80% of cases of pancreatic cancer, the diagnosis is only given when the tumor is already inoperable and is in metastasis, that is, spreading to other organs.

In cases where treatment is possible, the recommended interventions are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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