What is cancer?
Our body consists of cells. Normal cells grow, multiply and die in an orderly manner and are replaced by new cells. Cancer cells do not die but continue to multiply in a disorderly manner. Over time they can form a mass which may be malignant, in other words cancerous.
The pancreas contains two types of glands. Exocrine glands have a role in the digestion of food with the production of “pancreatic juice’. Endocrine glands produce hormones including insulin (reduces sugar in the blood) and glucagon (increases sugar in the blood).
The pancreas is located behind the stomach.:
What is pancreatic cancer?
Because there are two types of glands in the pancreas, there are different types of cells and different types of cancer. It is important to know which type of pancreatic cancer you have as this will affect treatment and outlook. The most common types are exocrine tumors.
What increases my risk?
- Age – your risk increases with age.
- Gender – men are at greater risk.
- Ethnicity - Persons with black skin are at increased risk.
- Genetics – Inherited genetic mutations including BRCA2 and lynch syndrome.
- Personal or family history of pancreatic cancer.
- Pancreatitis: Personal or family history of chronic inflammation of the pancreas
- Tobacco, including smokeless tobacco.
- Diet – those high in red and processed meats
- Cirrhosis of the liver.
- Stomach problems sometimes associated with H.Pylori bacteria.
What decreases my risk?
There are no established guidelines for preventing pancreatic cancer.
Avoiding tobacco and alcoholic products and maintaining a healthy weight by diet and exercise may lower risk.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Abdominal or back pain
- Unintentional weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Digestive problems including nausea and vomiting
There is no routine screening test for pancreatic cancer.