What is pancreatic cancer?

The pancreas is a very important organ in the body that aids in the regulation of digestion and production of hormones. Pancreatic cancer is a harmful disease that begins when normal processes of cell division and growth are disrupted, giving way to abnormal, uncontrollable growth in the pancreas. The cells grow and accumulate into a mass (tumor). Tumors in the pancreas are either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) and may spread (metastasize) to other organs in the body. The stages of pancreatic cancer are:
  • Stage I: cancer is confined to the pancreas.
  • Stage II: cancer has metastasized beyond the pancreas to nearby tissues and organs and may have metastasized to the lymph nodes. 
  • Stage III: cancer has metastasized beyond the pancreas to the major blood vessels.
  • Stage IV: cancer has metastasized to distant sites beyond the pancreas.
Risk factors
  • Age: most cases occur in older individuals.
  • Cigarette smoking increases the chances of pancreatic cancer, among many other forms of cancer.
  • Obesity: people who are overweight, or not physically active, are at a greater risk for developing the disease. 
  • Family history: patients with relatives who have/had pancreatic cancer are at an increased risk.
  • Gender: pancreatic cancer is more common in men than women. 
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Race: African Americans are more commonly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Blood tests may reveal pancreas function abnormalities.
  • Ultrasound (sonography) captures echoes of the internal soft tissue structures of the body and produces videos or images of them. 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan is a special type of X-ray that takes detailed images of organs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces very clear images of the human body using a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer.
  • Laparoscopy observes the pancreas and other organs inside the abdominal cavity. A biopsy (removal of tissue for study under a microscope) may be done using a laparoscope and is the most reliable way to determine cancer.
Treatment decisions are based on the stage of cancer upon diagnosis. The goal is primarily to decrease signs and symptoms to improve length and quality of life. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these. 
  • Pancreatic cancer is the 4th most common cause of cancer death in the United States.
  • Pancreatic cancer accounts for 2% of cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
  • 42,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
  • 35,000 people die from complications caused by pancreatic cancer each year in the U.S.
  • Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 60 and 80.
about pancreatic cancer

  • "Pancreatic Cancer." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 06 June 2017. Web. 28 June 2017.
  • "Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms, Prognosis & More." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 27 May 2015. Web. 28 June 2017.
  • "What You Need to Know About Pancreatic Cancer." Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Health System, n.d. Web. 28 June 2017.
  • "Pancreatic Cancer Facts." Pancreatic Cancer Facts | MD Anderson Cancer Center. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, n.d. Web. 29 June 2017.



Join the community!

You must be a member of healtheo360 in order to view this group

Register with Email Address

Already a member? Click here to login

healtheo360 believes strongly in user privacy.