This treatment can be very stressful

You may have been diagnosed with or suspected of having cancer of the pancreas. Cancer is a heavy burden. Always affects the habitual living environment. Dealing with it is not easy.

This information is intended to help you and your relatives understand the disease and to give you advice and help in dealing with it. If you know more about your disease, you will be able to cope with it better.

At a glance

Compared to other cancers, such as colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer rarely occurs. At an early stage, the disease rarely causes symptoms. That is why it is often detected late.

Examinations for early detection of pancreatic cancer are not recommended. Treatment depends on many factors. Should be tailored to your personal needs. Options available include: Surgery, medication, nutritional counseling, emotional support.

The pancreas

The pancreas is located at the back of the abdominal cavity between the stomach and the spine. Close to it are the liver, intestines and other organs.

The pancreas is about 15 to 20 cm long and is divided into three sections: the head, the body and the tail.

The pancreas has two important tasks:

– It produces digestive juices for the intestines.

– It produces the hormones insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar levels.

Cancer of the pancreas

When cells in the body multiply unchecked, they displace healthy body tie. A tumor develops. If the cancer originates from the cells of the pancreas, the technical term for this is pancreatic carcinoma. Cancer occurs most frequently in the head of the pancreas. When pancreatic cancer spreads, metastases often settle in the lungs, liver or bones.

Compared to commonly occurring cancers, pancreatic cancer is rare. Every year, about 16,000 people in Germany develop pancreatic cancer, but about 65,000 develop colorectal cancer. Men and women are affected about equally often. Men develop the disease on average at the age of 71, women at 75. Cancer of the pancreas is usually detected late. Has then unfavorable healing prospects. However, this says nothing about your personal course of disease. This depends, among other things, on how aggressive the cancer is and how advanced it is.

Is early detection possible?

Experts have found no evidence that early screening can influence the course of the disease or reduce mortality. This applies, for example, to imaging procedures such as CT or the determination of tumor markers in the blood. Test results are sometimes inaccurate. Can worry those affected. Therefore, early detection is not recommended here.


At first, pancreatic cancer is rarely noticeable. As it progresses, it causes symptoms, some of which are more general and may also indicate other diseases: for example, pain in the upper abdomen or back, weakness, foul-smelling diarrhea, unwanted weight loss, nausea, or itchy skin.

The following signs are suspicious for cancer of the pancreas – have them checked out by a doctor:

Persistent upper abdominal or back pain that occurs together with other complaints

Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice), with no pain

For people over the age of 50. Age: an inflammation of the pancreas, the cause of which is unclear


Surgery is usually the only way to cure pancreatic cancer. The prerequisite for this is that the cancer can be completely removed and has not yet spread. Surgery is possible for about 1 in 5 people with the disease. In this case, the surgical team removes depending on the situation. Extension of the cancer the pancreas partially or completely. If adjacent organs are affected, they are partly removed as well.

Subsequent treatment with drugs (chemotherapy) sometimes improves the course of the disease.

If the cancer has spread, it is probably no longer curable. Medications can temporarily stop cancer growth to prolong life and maintain quality of life. This treatment can be very stressful. It is recommended if your physical condition allows it. Some sufferers are affected by disease. Previous treatments very weakened. In this case, it is more helpful to relieve the discomfort only.

Other measures may also help, for example nutritional counseling and emotional support.

Your treatment team should work with you to tailor therapy to your physical strength and needs. The advantages and disadvantages of the treatment options are described in detail in the patient guideline (see below "Explained in detail").

What you can do yourself

– Think about the stresses and strains you are willing to put on yourself by undergoing treatment. You can also stop treatment.

– Take the time you need and talk to people who are close to you or have had similar experiences.

– You do not have to endure pain. They can be effectively relieved with the right treatment.

Let your family know how you feel and what is good for you and what is not.

Have your blood sugar checked regularly. The result of pancreatic disease can be diabetes, which must be treated.

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