Pancreatic Tumor

A pancreatic tumor can be benign or malignant, with the majority of all tumors diagnosed in the pancreas being malignant. While benign tumors can be removed relatively easily, malignant tumors or pancreatic carcinomas are known for their enormous aggressiveness.

Pancreatic Tumor

What is a pancreatic tumor?

A pancreatic tumor is what doctors call tumors that have formed in the pancreas – the pancreas. The majority of the resulting tumors are malignant; subsequently, the tumor affects the area of ​​the pancreas that produces the digestive enzymes. The ducts that lie within the organ are primarily affected. See gradinmath for What is Midlife Crisis.


The cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for the production of digestive juices, begin to grow uncontrollably. As a result, a pancreatic tumor develops. Even if there are benign and malignant tumors, malignant tumors (pancreatic carcinoma) are increasing. Malignant tumors are extremely aggressive and grow and multiply incredibly quickly.

A characteristic feature is the formation of metastases, which subsequently also affect other organs (such as the lungs or liver). Even if the development of a pancreatic tumor is known, the doctors have not yet found an exact reason why the growth of the pancreatic cells degenerates and a pancreatic tumor forms. Sometimes, however, there are genetic changes that ensure that healthy pancreatic cells are transformed into tumor cells.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Increasing icterus (jaundice) is characteristic of the pancreatic tumor ; Although this usually only occurs in the advanced stage of the disease, it is considered a classic key symptom of the tumor disease. The patients also complain of abdominal pain, which subsequently radiates to the back.

Pain, which is described as dull and occurs mainly at night, is also typical of pancreatic tumors. A bulging gallbladder (so-called Courvoisier’s sign) is also an indication that a pancreatic tumor has formed. Since the pancreatic tumor blocks the inner ducts of the pancreas, the function of the glands is subsequently impaired.

So that the patients also suffer from digestive problems; rapid weight loss is the result. Diabetes occurs in about ten percent of all cases. Altered skin pigmentation and thrombosis can also be the first signs of a pancreatic tumor. In the advanced stage, liver enlargement and functional disorders of the liver are also possible; severe emaciation and ascites occur in the final stages.

Diagnosis & course of disease

The doctor initially performs an ultrasound scan. Using ultrasound, it is possible to rule out any other diseases in advance that can also cause abdominal pain or jaundice. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging or computer tomography, the doctor can detect any tumors that have formed in the pancreas.

In a few cases, a gastroscopy and an X-ray of the inner ducts of the pancreas may also be necessary so that a reliable diagnosis can be made. Due to improved surgical techniques, one can now speak of a better healing rate. While benign tumors can be removed simply and easily, malignant tumors in particular are extremely difficult to treat.

Pancreatic carcinoma has the worst prognosis of all carcinomas known to date. The so-called five-year survival rate is no more than 30 percent; just 20 percent of all tumors can still be surgically removed after the doctor has made the diagnosis. In around 80 percent of all cases, the tumor returns – within 24 months; only in very few cases is a second operation possible.


There is an increased risk of complications with a pancreatic tumor, which is particularly true for malignant tumors. Because the tumor is usually anatomically located near the bile duct, bile can accumulate and extend to the gallbladder. As a result, there is a risk of inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). The development of an abscess in the liver is also possible.

If the gallbladder infection spreads throughout the body, life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) can develop. Without prompt medical treatment, this often results in the death of the patient. Sometimes a pancreatic tumor causes a blockage in the intestine. The intestinal blockage can in turn result in impaired metabolism or constipation.

Because the blood supply is also reduced, there is a risk that the affected part of the intestine will become inflamed and die. A malignant pancreatic tumor often leads to metabolic disorders. It can no longer produce enough hormones and enzymes. The development of diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is also possible as the cancer progresses.

Complications can also occur with the help of surgical treatment of the pancreatic tumor. The various interventions are considered to be serious and extensive. Conceivable consequences are injuries to adjacent organs and body structures. These include blood vessels such as the main artery (aorta) or the nerves. It is not uncommon for there to be heavy bleeding or secondary bleeding.

When should you go to the doctor?

Recurring gastrointestinal complaints, weight and appetite loss as well as signs of type 2 diabetes mellitus indicate a pancreatic tumor. A doctor should be consulted if these symptoms occur without a clear cause. If you have any other unusual symptoms or symptoms, it is best to consult your family doctor or a gastroenterologist.

Ein Pankreastumor äußert sich durch ein aggressives Wachstum und eine schnelle Metastasierung, weshalb eine frühzeitige Diagnose unter Umständen lebensrettend ist. Raucher, Alkoholiker und Menschen mit Übergewicht erkranken besonders häufig an einem Pankreastumor. Ebenso gehören Diabetes-Patienten sowie Personen mit einer familiären Häufung der Erkrankung zu den Risikogruppen. Wenn diese Faktoren zutreffen oder generell ein ungesunder Lebensstil mit wenig Bewegung und einer einseitigen Diät geführt wird, sollten die beschriebenen Symptome unbedingt ärztlich abgeklärt werden.

The family doctor, an oncologist or a gastroenterologist is responsible. Nutritionists, physiotherapists and psychologists are also consulted during treatment. Therapy always takes place under the supervision of a specialist who must be informed of any unusual symptoms, side effects and events related to the disease. Since there is a high risk of recurrence, the patient must go for cancer screening at regular intervals after the therapy.

Treatment & Therapy

Four out of five carcinomas can no longer be treated surgically when the doctor makes the diagnosis, since the patients are already at an advanced stage. Even if only isolated metastases in the liver have been diagnosed, the operation does not lead to a cure. However, if the tumor has not caused distant metastases or infiltrated larger arteries, the tumor can be completely removed.

However, if there is infiltration of the veins, an intervention is also made impossible. During the operation, the doctor also removes the lymph nodes – even if they are not affected. Even if this variant is controversial, more and more doctors decide to remove the still healthy lymph nodes.

During the surgical procedure, the doctor does not try to remove the entire organ, so that a connection with the intestine is still possible. Depending on the location, the doctor decides on a right-sided (duodenopancreatectomy), left-sided (pancreatic tail resection) or middle partial resection of the pancreas. In almost all cases, the spleen is also removed in the left-sided partial resection.

Sometimes a total resection – the complete removal of the pancreas – can represent the patient’s last chance of recovery. After that, the bile duct and the stomach are connected to the intestine. For this purpose, loops of the small intestine that are pulled up are used, which are “connected” to the stomach without tension.

However, if the tumor is incurable, the doctor decides on chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can also be considered useful after surgery or before surgery (if the tumor is too large and needs to be reduced).

Outlook & Forecast

The pancreatic tumor is one of the most insidious types of cancer. According to the Robert Koch Institute Cancer Registry, the five-year survival rate for male patients is 6.4 percent. For women it is 7.6 percent. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers. However, the prognosis of the disease depends largely on when the diagnosis and subsequent treatment take place. The sooner the pancreatic tumor is treated accordingly, the more favorable this will be for the course of the disease. The type of tumor also plays an important role.

Surgical removal of the pancreatic tumor is only possible in 15 to 20 percent of all patients, which also has a negative effect on the further course. The 5-year survival rate for those who have been operated on is between 22 and 37 percent. The prognosis is particularly poor if the tumor is already at an advanced stage. The 5-year survival rate is only 0.2 to 0.4 percent.

It looks better in the case of cystadenocarcinoma, which occurs only rarely. This special form of pancreatic tumor is localized for a long time and is less aggressive. For this reason, his prognosis is more favorable. The prognosis for endocrine carcinomas is also generally better.

In addition, a pancreatic tumor can recur. Metastasis formation is also possible.


Since no causes are known to date for which reason the pancreatic cells degenerate and mutate into cancer cells, it is also not yet known what preventive measures could stop or prevent any tumor formation.


Tumor diseases require follow-up care. Many tumors form again after successful therapy. Doctors counteract this life-threatening danger by closely monitoring the progression. It is no different with a pancreatic tumor. Doctor and patient usually talk about aftercare before the end of the initial therapy.

It should be noted that a cure is not always possible. Doctors sometimes refrain from treating a pancreatic tumor because it is too advanced by the time it is diagnosed. Then the aftercare only has a palliative function. Those affected receive medical support to live without pain for the remaining time.

Classic aftercare takes place at least quarterly in the first and second year after the end of treatment. The frequency of the examination then widens. From the fifth year of freedom from symptoms, an annual check is sufficient. The aftercare is carried out either in a clinic or by a resident doctor.

Content points are a symptom-related discussion and a physical examination. A doctor can use endoscopic echography to see the inside of the abdomen. Computed tomography is also common. Due to the low survival rate in the case of a pancreatic tumor, questions about life also play a role that should not be underestimated. Psychotherapy may be prescribed if necessary.

You can do that yourself

Pancreatic tumor patients can support themselves and their organism through a healthy lifestyle. With a balanced diet and the supply of vitamins, nutrients and trace elements, the immune system is strengthened and well-being improved.

The body needs sufficient sleep and high-quality rest phases for good regeneration. Sleep hygiene should therefore be checked and adapted to the needs of the patient. The bed utensils, the fresh air supply and possible environmental influences must be checked and optimized.

Relaxation techniques and cognitive training help to build inner balance. The patient can use these procedures and methods independently or with the help of professional support. Hectic, stress or excitement have a negative impact on health and weaken the patient. Sufficient exercise in the fresh air, leisure activities and conversations with relatives or other affected people are perceived as beneficial and stabilizing.

The patient’s focus should be on improving their well-being. A positive attitude towards life and laughter strengthen those affected despite all adversities. An exchange with other sufferers in self-help groups or internet forums can lead to new insights. Tips and hints for dealing with the disease in everyday life help to cope with all examinations and complaints.