What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas, which is an organ in your abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of your stomach. Your pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars.
Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early. Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it is a leading cause of cancer death.
What puts you at risk for pancreatic cancer?
Your risk of getting pancreatic cancer is higher if you:
- Are very overweight or not active.
- Have abnormal glucose metabolism or insulin resistance.
- Have chronic pancreatitis.
- Have a family history of pancreatic cancer.
- Have certain rare inherited conditions, such as hereditary pancreatitis or Lynch syndrome.
What are the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer usually doesn't cause symptoms at first. It's silent and painless. Symptoms usually don't begin until the cancer has spread. They may include:
- Pain in the upper belly or back.
- Jaundice. This yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes can happen when the growing tumor presses the bile duct closed.
- Unexpected weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Extreme tiredness.
How is pancreatic cancer treated?
Treatment for pancreatic cancer is determined based on the location of the tumor in your pancreas, whether the disease has spread, and your age and general health. Some of the treatment options include: