"Cancer of the pancreas is a genetic disease that is the fifth most common cause of death in both men and women. Pancreatic cancer affects approximately 28,000 Americans each year, or five out of 100,000 people" (Mayo Clinic, 1998). According to physicians at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, "pancreatic cancer is the challenge of the twenty-first century." So, where exactly is the pancreas located in our bodies, and what does it do? The pancreas is a gland found behind the stomach that is shaped somewhat like a fish. The pancreas is about six inches long and less than two inches wide, and it extends across the abdomen. The pancreas consists of two separate glands inside the same organ, the exocrine gland and the endocrine gland. The exocrine gland makes pancreatic juice that has enzymes to break down fats and proteins in foods so the body can use them. Most of the cells in the pancreas are part of the exocrine system. A smaller number of cells in the pancreas are endocrine cells. These cells are arranged in clusters called islets. Islets make hormones that help balance the amount of sugar in the blood. So, how does the pancreas create cancer? Both the exocrine and endocrine cells of the pancreas can form tumors. Exocrine pancreas tumors are much more common. However, not all of these tumors are cancerous. A small number of these tumors are benign. Pancreatic cancer involves important factors such as signs, symptoms, causes, survival and death rates, and treatment for this disease. How many people in the United States are affected by this cancer? The American Cancer Society predicts that, in 2005, about 32,180 people in the US will be found to have pancreatic cancer and about 31,800 will die of the disease. The fiveyear survival rate after diagnosis for exocrine pancreatic cancer is 4 percent. This kind of cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death. About one out of four patients with cancer of the exocrine pancreas will live...
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