What is pancreatic cancer?
There are two main types of pancreatic tumors: exocrine and endocrine. The type of tumor depends on which type of cells are involved. Exocrine (say "EX-oh-krin") cells make digestive juices. Endocrine (say "EN-doh-krin") cells make insulin. Most people with pancreatic cancer have exocrine tumors, which grow faster than endocrine tumors.
Treatments are more successful when cancer is found early. But in most cases, pancreatic cancer has already spread by the time it is found. Still, treatment may help you feel better, and it helps some people live longer.
What causes pancreatic cancer?
Experts don't know what causes pancreatic cancer. But they do know that changes in the body's DNA play a role in many cancers.
What are the symptoms?
How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?
There are not yet any tests that work well for finding pancreatic cancer in its early stages.
You may also have a biopsy. This means taking a tissue sample from the pancreas and checking it under a microscope.
What increases the risk of pancreatic cancer?
Your risk of getting pancreatic cancer is higher if you:
- Have diabetes.
- Have chronic pancreatitis.
- Have a family history of pancreatic cancer.
- Have certain rare inherited conditions, such as hereditary pancreatitis or Lynch syndrome.
How is it treated?
This cancer is rarely found before it has grown. But when it is found early, treatment can help the person live longer. Statistics show that for every 100 people whose cancer is found early, about 23 will live at least 5 more years.1
Finding out that you have cancer can change your life. You may feel like your world has turned upside down and you've lost control. Talking with family, friends, and a counselor can really help. Ask your doctor about support groups. Or call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about pancreatic cancer: