A pancreatic mass is a lump on your pancreas that can be cancerous or noncancerous. Pancreatic cancer makes up about
Your pancreas is about
Read to learn more about pancreatic masses in the tail of the pancreas, including how they’re diagnosed and treated.
A pancreatic mass is another name for a pancreatic tumor. Tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous.
Ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas is expected to become the
Is a tumor in the tail of the pancreas always cancerous?
Noncancerous pancreatic masses are called benign tumors and don’t invade surrounding tissues. They still require a diagnosis from a doctor to rule out cancer.
Noncancerous tumors may also need to be monitored, as some can become cancerous.
Benign tumors may require removal if they’re causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or pain.
Pancreatic cancer in the tail often isn’t diagnosed until the cancer has spread too far for surgical removal. Early stage pancreatic cancer often doesn’t cause any symptoms, and when symptoms are present, they’re often general.
Here’s a look at the
|Head of pancreas
|Tail of pancreas
|nausea and vomiting
Example of early symptoms for pancreatic cancer in the tail
He had no other symptoms except for one bout of abdominal pain and vomiting that required him to go to the hospital, where stage 4 pancreatic tail cancer was diagnosed.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why pancreatic cancer develops, but they have identified some risk factors:
- tobacco use (cigarette smoking), which is thought to cause about
1 in 4pancreatic cancers
- increasing age, with
almost everyonewho develops pancreatic cancer being over the age of 45
- having obesity, which results in pancreatic cancer developing about
- chronic pancreatitis
- Heliobacter pylori infection
- exposure to chemicals in the dry-cleaning and metalworking industries
- male sex
- African American ethnicity
- family history
The first step to getting a pancreatic cancer diagnosis usually starts by visiting a doctor. They’ll perform a physical exam and consider your family and medical history.
If they suspect pancreatic cancer, they’ll order other tests or refer you to a specialist called a gastroenterologist.
Blood tests can identify markers that suggest cancer. Imaging tests can help identify tumors. A variety of imaging tests are used to diagnose pancreatic cancer, including:
- computed tomography (CT) scans
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- positron emission tomography (PET) scans
In most cases, a small tissue sample collected through a procedure called a biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Surgical removal remains the only option to cure pancreatic cancer. But by the time of diagnosis, most pancreatic cancers have progressed too far for surgery.
Pancreatic cancers that are eligible for surgery are typically removed with a procedure called a distal pancreatectomy with a splenectomy.
A distal pancreatectomy removes the tail and possibly the body of your pancreas while keeping the head. A splenectomy is the removal of your spleen.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Surgery is often followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells that may have been left behind. These treatments are sometimes used before surgery to shrink the tumor.
They also receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy given before surgery) about 58% less often than people with pancreatic head tumors.
Treating late stage pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer that has spread to distant parts of your body isn’t considered curable. Treatment aims to improve quality of life and may include:
- chemotherapy with or without targeted therapy
- clinical trials of new anticancer drugs with or without chemotherapy
- supportive treatments to help manage your symptoms
Your outlook if you have pancreatic cancer depends on factors such as:
- how far your cancer has spread
- your overall health
- your age
- the type of cancer
People with tumors that arise in the pancreatic tail or body tend to have a poorer outlook than people with tumors in the pancreatic head. This is because tumors in the pancreatic tail are often diagnosed at a
- be larger
- spread to distant body parts
- spread to major blood vessels called your
hepatic and celiac arteries
- not be surgically removable
Despite having a poorer outlook overall, people with pancreatic cancer in the tail may have a better outlook than those with other pancreatic cancers when the cancer is considered surgically removable. Surgery to remove cancer from the tail tends to be easier and has a
Pancreatic cancer in the tail of your pancreas tends to be diagnosed later than cancer in the head of the pancreas.
The outlook for people with this type of cancer tends to be poorer overall, but research suggests that the outlook may be better when the cancer is caught early enough for surgical removal.
A doctor can help recommend the best treatment for your cancer and give you an idea of what to expect. Factors such as your overall health, age, and the extent of your cancer play a role in determining your outlook.