Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which cells become abnormal and multiply without control or order and form a malignant tumor in the tissues of the pancreas.
The pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long that is shaped like a thin tadpole lying on its side. It lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. 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 has "exocrine" cells that produce juices to help digest food; and, "endocrine" cells that produce hormones, such as insulin and glucagons. These help control blood sugar levels, and help the body use and store energy from food. About 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells.
RISK FACTORS for developing pancreatic cancer include:
*Age: most cases occur in people over age 60
*Race: Black people have pancreatic cancer more often than Asians, Hispanics or whites *Obesity or being overweight
*Long-standing or unexplained diabetes
*Uncommon hereditary conditions such as:
hereditary pancreatitis multiple endocrine neoplasia type I syndrome hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC, Lynch syndrome) von Hippel-Lindau syndrome ataxia-telangiectasia familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM) breast cancer BRCA2 families
*Family history: Risk increases three times if mother, father, brother or sister affected
SYMPTOMS TO REPORT include:
*Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
*Pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back
*Unexplained weight loss
*Loss of appetite
DIAGNOSING AND STAGING
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to find and diagnose early because there are not any signs or symptoms in the early stages.
Symptoms that may be present are similar to symptoms of other diseases. Also, the pancreas is hidden behind the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen and bile...
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