A pancreatic tail mass is a growth or lump in the tail of the pancreas. It may be benign or cancerous. Cancerous pancreatic tail tumors are usually asymptomatic in the earliest stages, possibly leading to later diagnoses.
The pancreas is a thin, pear-shaped gland in the abdomen between the stomach and spine.
Pancreatic tail masses
This article explains the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and outlook for people with pancreatic tail masses.
Pancreatic tumor symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the mass. For instance, tumors in the head of the pancreas can cause jaundice, but this is less likely with tumors in the pancreas tail or body.
According to a
However, the case report highlights that pancreatic tail tumors are often asymptomatic in early stages, which may contribute to a late diagnosis.
Pancreatic tail cancer
- Physical examination: During a physical exam, doctors assess a person’s overall health and may feel the abdomen for abnormalities or masses.
- Medical history: Doctors may ask about the person’s medical and family history to identify potential risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
- Blood tests: Blood tests in a pancreatic cancer diagnosis may assess a person’s liver function and general health. Doctors may also use blood tests to locate tumor markers.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests can help doctors visualize the pancreas and determine the size and location of any masses. These tests may include:
If the imaging and laboratory tests indicate a potential pancreatic tail mass, doctors may recommend further diagnostic procedures, such as a biopsy. A biopsy involves removing a small tissue sample from the pancreatic tail and examining it under a microscope.
Doctors may complete biopsies using an endoscopic ultrasound. It allows them to look inside the body at specific organs and tissues.
Treatment options for pancreatic tail masses
Potential treatment options for pancreatic tumors include:
- Chemotherapy: Doctors
may recommendchemotherapy to shrink the tumor, prevent it from spreading, or treat any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy may still be a primary treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer if surgery is not a viable option.
- Radiation therapy: Some people
may requirea combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to target and destroy cancer cells in the pancreatic tail. Doctors may also suggest radiation therapy to ease certain symptoms of advanced pancreatic cancer.
- Targeted therapy: Doctors
may recommendtargeted therapy alongside chemotherapy or if other treatment options do not work. Targeted therapy drugs for pancreatic cancer include erlotinib (Tarceva) and olaparib (Lynparza).
- Distal pancreatectomy: If the person is eligible for surgery, doctors
may recommendremoving the pancreas’s tail and any surrounding lymph nodes. Surgeons may also remove the spleen during the procedure.
- Total pancreatectomy: In some cases, doctors may recommend a total pancreatectomy. It involves removing the entire pancreas, the gallbladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, and the spleen.
In addition to removing the pancreatic tail mass, doctors may also recommend supportive care and pain management to improve the person’s quality of life.
The outlook for people with pancreatic tail masses may depend on the type of tumor a person has. For instance, a 2020 article suggests that the less common pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors often have a better outlook than exocrine tumors.
Additionally, pancreatic tail tumors
As of 2023, the 5-year relative survival rate for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined is
- chronic pancreatitis
- type 2 diabetes
- family history of pancreatic cancer
- certain inherited conditions, including Lynch syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
The American Cancer Society suggests that the risk of pancreatic cancer also increases with age.
In advanced stages, pancreatic tail tumors may cause back or abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss. If people experience these symptoms, they should contact a healthcare professional to identify the cause.
Although pancreatic tail cancer is usually asymptomatic in its early stages, people experiencing the following symptoms
People who receive a cancer diagnosis
The following organizations also offer support to people with pancreatic cancer and their caregivers:
Below are answers to some common questions about pancreatic tail masses.
Is a pancreatic tail mass always cancerous?
Pancreatic tail masses can be cancerous or noncancerous. Some benign (noncancerous) growths may also become cancerous over time.
Some benign and precancerous pancreatic tumors
- serous cystic neoplasms
- solid pseudopapillary neoplasms
- mucinous cystic neoplasms
- intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms
Is a pancreatic tail tumor worse than a pancreas head tumor?
Pancreatic head tumors are
How serious is a pancreatic tail tumor?
The outlook for pancreatic tail tumors may depend on the size and stage of the tumor, the person’s overall health, and whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body.
2023 cancer figures from the American Cancer Society suggest that the combined stages of pancreatic cancer have a 5-year relative survival rate of
Pancreatic tail masses are growths or tumors that occur in the tail of the pancreas. They can be cancerous or noncancerous.
Early stage pancreatic tail tumors usually do not cause symptoms, which may lead to a later diagnosis. However, people with advanced pancreatic tail cancer may experience back or stomach pain and sudden weight loss.
With prompt medical attention, proper diagnosis, and timely treatment, a person with a pancreatic tail mass may have a better outlook and quality of life.