Cancer of the pancreas refers to the abnormal growth of cells in the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and lethal types of cancer, as it tends to be diagnosed at a late stage and is often difficult to treat.
There are two main types of pancreatic cancer: exocrine pancreatic cancer and endocrine pancreatic cancer. Exocrine pancreatic cancer, which is more common, arises from the cells that produce digestive enzymes and is usually an adenocarcinoma. Endocrine pancreatic cancer, also known as islet cell tumor or pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, arises from the cells that produce hormones and is usually less aggressive.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, obesity, chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, family history of pancreatic cancer, and certain genetic mutations. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include abdominal pain, jaundice, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and changes in bowel movements.
Treatment options for pancreatic cancer depend on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination to shrink or remove the tumor and prevent its spread. However, even with treatment, the prognosis for pancreatic cancer is generally poor, with a five-year survival rate of around 10%.