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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the pancreas.

 The pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long that is shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine.

The pancreas has two main jobs in the body:

  • To produce juices that help digest (break down) food.
  • To produce hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, that helps control blood sugar levels. Both of these hormones help the body use and store the energy it gets from food.

Exocrine pancreas cells produce the digestive juices and endocrine pancreas cells produce the hormones. About 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells.

Symptoms

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are often vague and can appear similar to those caused by other conditions. This means that pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose. Some of the common symptoms may include:

  • Persistent pain in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice, if the bile duct is blocked
  • Pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back