Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma is a malignant tumor of the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is sometimes called a "silent disease" because pancreatic adenocarcinoma often does not cause symptoms in its early stages, but the later symptoms include: pain in the upper abdomen that typically radiates to the back and is relieved by leaning forward (seen in carcinoma of the body or tail of the pancreas); loss of appetite (anorexia), and/or nausea and vomiting; significant weight loss; painless jaundice (yellow skin/eyes, dark urine) related to bile duct obstruction (carcinoma of the head of the pancreas). This may also cause acholic stool and steatorrhea.

All of these symptoms can have multiple other causes. Therefore, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until it is advanced.

Each year about 37,680 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with this condition, and 34,290 die from the disease. In Europe more than 60,000 are diagnosed each year. Depending on the extent of the tumor at the time of diagnosis, the prognosis is generally regarded as poor, with less than 5 percent of those diagnosed still alive five years after diagnosis, and complete remission still extremely rare. About 95 percent of pancreatic tumors are adenocarcinomas. The remaining 5 percent include other tumors of the exocrine pancreas, acinar cell cancers, and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. These tumors have a completely different diagnostic and therapeutic profile, and generally a more favorable prognosis.