Pancreatic cancer occurs when a tumor forms within the pancreas, a fish-shaped organ surrounded by the liver and the organs of the digestive system. The pancreas is responsible for producing enzymes that break down food.
Most cancers of the pancreas are called adenocarcinomas, which are tumors that form in the gland cells of the pancreas.
Causes and Symptoms
Things such as smoking, diabetes, obesity or a family history of pancreatic cancer can increase your chances of developing the disease. If you have inflammation of the pancreas because of a disorder such as pancreatitis, that also can enhance your risk. Researchers are also examining whether heavy alcohol use or a diet that is high in fat might increase your risk for pancreatic cancer.
When pancreatic cancer presents symptoms, one of the main warning signs is pain in the upper part of your belly or the middle of the back. Jaundice, in which the skin and eyes have a tinge of yellow, also sometimes occurs. You may experience dark urine or stools that are pale or float in the toilet. Nausea and vomiting are additional warning signs of pancreatic cancer.
Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer
Treatment for pancreatic cancer is most effective if the cancer is caught at an early stage and the tumor can be completely removed via surgery. However, even if the cancer has grown or spread, treatments can still help the patient live a longer and better-quality life. Common treatments for pancreatic cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and chemotherapy.
SOURCES: American Cancer Society; U.S. National Cancer Institute