When cancer that first formed in the pancreas spreads to other parts of the body, doctors classify it as stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is an organ that supports the digestive system and helps the body regulate blood sugar. blood.
Pancreatic cancer is hard to find early because the pancreas is deep in the body. People usually have no symptoms until the tumor has grown very large or the cancer has spread to other organs. According to 2015 research, about 53% of people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed when the cancer is stage 4.
Doctors cannot cure stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The goal of treatment is to prolong a person’s life, improve their quality of life, and control their symptoms. Knowing what to expect can help individuals and loved ones cope. In this article, we describe the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and describe the 4 stages.
What are the 4 stages of pancreatic cancer?
Talking with a therapist can help you cope with the emotional pressure of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. When diagnosing pancreatic cancer, the doctor aims to find out how much cancer is in the body and whether it has spread beyond the pancreas. This process, called staging, helps indicate the severity of the cancer and the best treatments.
The 4 stages of pancreatic cancer are:
Stage 0: The cancer is confined to the top layer of cells in the pancreatic duct.
Stage 1: The cancer is confined to the cells of the pancreas and the tumor is no larger than 4 centimeters.
Stage 2: The tumor may be larger. Or the cancer may have spread to three lymph nodes but not to any other organs.
Stage 3: The cancer can grow outside the pancreas, into nearby blood vessels. It may also have spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 4: The cancer has spread to distant sites, such as the liver or lungs.
When cancer spreads to distant organs, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells are always pancreatic cells, even if they grow in other organs.
Pancreatic cancer can metastasize to many places, including:
– the diaphragm
– the adrenal glands
– the bones
– the peritoneum, the tissue that lines the abdomen.
Sometimes doctors can only identify the stage of the cancer by performing surgery.
To determine a person’s future prospects, doctors consider the stage of the cancer and how abnormal the cancer cells are. They also take into account the general state of health of the person. When cancer has spread to other organs, surgeons cannot remove or cure it. Stage 4 cancer treatments focus on managing pain and other symptoms to improve quality of life.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer can be hard to find early because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms at this stage. At a more advanced stage, the cancer can disrupt the function of the gallbladder, liver, and bile ducts. This can lead to:
– skin itch
– dark urine
– pale stools
– abdominal pain
– jaundice, that is, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Other nonspecific symptoms may include
– unexplained weight loss
– lack of appetite or feeling full quickly after eating
– sudden onset of type 2 diabetes that is difficult to control.
Diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer
de la Cruz, MSD, and Young, AP (2014). Diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer.
Stages of pancreatic cancer. (North Dakota).
Puckett, Y. & Garfield, K. (2020). Pancreatic cancer.
Tas, F., et al. (2013). Prognostic factors in metastatic pancreatic cancer: Older patients are associated with reduced overall survival.
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