A pancreatic mass is a lump or growth on the pancreas, an organ that produces hormones, such as insulin, and excretes juices utilized in the digestive process. Insulin plays an important role in regulating internal functions such as metabolism, growth and temperature regulation. Pancreatic juices contain enzymes or proteins which increases the chemical process rate.
An abnormal mass in the pancreas can be a relatively harmless cyst formation or an indication of a more serious problem. A cyst is a fluid-filled, sac-like lump, often referred to as a psuedocyst, which may cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Pancreatic cysts are typically not cancerous, however.
On the other hand, a pancreatic tumor is a mass that may be cancerous. Pancreatic cancer is a disease where these tumors develop in the organ and may metastasize or spread into other parts of the body and jeopardize life expectancy. A cancerous pancreatic mass is difficult to diagnose because, initially, there may be no symptoms or indications of a problem. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include abdominal pain that radiates into the back, nausea, vomiting and weight loss, and jaundice. Jaundice is a condition causing a yellowing of the skin and eyes from an increase of bilirubin, a component of red blood cells.
The prognosis for a person with a pancreatic cancer depends on the stage at which it is diagnosed. Many cases are in an advanced stage of the disease before symptoms occur. Often, treatment is focused on techniques and procedures designed to slow down the spread of the cancer, and can include surgery or chemotherapy.
Pancreatic surgery involves the removal of the tumor and any infected sections of the pancreas. Surgical options can range from minimally-invasive techniques through a laparoscope to a major surgical procedure. Surgery is an option for a pancreatic mass that has not metastasized, or spread, but surgical procedures may also be performed for extreme cases to lessen the severity of the cancer, decrease the effects of the disease on other body parts, and increase life expectancy.
Chemotherapy is a treatment option for pancreatic cancer that has spread. It involves the administration of cell-killing chemicals into the body to reduce cancerous effects. This form of treatment is often given to increase the patient's quality of life.