The pancreas is an oblong organ that lies behind the stomach and extends across the abdomen.
The shape of the pancreas resembles a letter “J” lying on its side with the hook pointing down.
The pancreas plays an important role in digestion with specialized cells that correspond to the pancreas’ two main functions: exocrine functions and endocrine functions. Exocrine cells are linked to a duct system and produce digestive enzymes that are secreted into the duodenum during digestion. Endocrine cells secrete hormones such as insulin and glucagon in order to help regulate metabolism and balance the amount of sugar in the blood.
During digestion, the epithelial lining of the small intestine releases the hormones secretin and cholecystokinin (CCK). These two hormones stimulate the production of digestive enzymes by the pancreatic exocrine cells. This combination of digestive juices flows through the pancreatic duct system into the duodenum to aid in the digestion process. Most pancreatic tumors form in the exocrine epithelial cells.
A pancreatic cancer type is based on the location of the tumor’s origin within the pancreas.
More than 95 percent of pancreatic cancers are adenocarcinomas of the exocrine pancreas. Tumors of the endocrine pancreas are much less common and most are benign.
Pancreatic Cancer is the number “4” cancer killer in the US and the only one of the four that does not have a known cure. The lack of early detection methods and research continues to slow progress towards a cure. There is no known cure for this deadly disease and over 42,400 people – 116 + per day are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year. In the last 5 years more than 210,000 people have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and over 92% of those individuals have passed away during the first year of their diagnosis. While only 5% of those living past the first year live to the fifth year and 3% of those will succumb to the disease sometime beyond that point. Pancreatic Cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over the last 25 years. Those that make it past the first year have been known to live significantly longer today than those diagnosed before 2006.
There is no known specific cause of Pancreatic Cancer and it is very difficult to diagnose and detect in its early stage. While it does not necessarily attack a specific age group patients in recent years have ranged from 19 – 85 that are afflicted with pancreatic cancer. Previous research of pancreatic cancer patients put the percentages of patients at the older end but in the last couple of years that has changed dramatically while changing the age range significantly. People who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer even at an early stage face a significant risk of recurrence and early death.
Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer vary and sometimes do not occur until the disease is in an advanced stage. That is why it is so difficult to diagnose and detect.
The signs and symptoms may include:
Some risk factors may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer but are not necessarily a risk factor for everyone:
According to researchers studying ways to detect pancreatic cancer early detection methods are still difficult. However, it is still not clear who should undergo screening and which screening tests are most reliable to detect pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages. Currently there is NO SET STANDARD screening for pancreatic cancer. Every pancreatic cancer patient is unique in this area.
Please always contact your local cancer care center for further information regarding your specific form of pancreatic cancer.
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