What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Defining the Disease – What is pancreatic cancer?


What is pancreatic cancer? It’s a disease that affects one of the most important organs in the human body; and that is often held responsible for claiming the lives of a full one percent of the nation’s population.

When asking the question “What is pancreatic cancer?”, one must first consider the organ that it most directly affects.  The pancreas, which lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine, produces hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which help control a person’s blood sugar levels.  The pancreas also produces enzymes that aid in the breaking down of protein as well as carbohydrates during the digestive process.

The most frequent type of pancreatic cancer, adenocarcinoma, attacks cells which produce digestive enzymes. So if you ask a physician “What is pancreatic cancer?”, he/she likely will describe this category of cancer.  Other types include islet cell carcinoma, pseudo papillary neoplasms, as well as pancreatic blastoma.

As important as the pancreas is in maintaining a healthful digestive system, it is indeed possible for a human being to survive without this organ.  Why, then, is pancreatic cancer among the leading cancer killers in the nation?

Due to the pancreas’ remote location in the body, it is difficult for physicians to detect and treat pancreatic tumors.  This may give those tumors time to grow and spread to more vital organs, such as the liver.  Pancreatic cancer tumors are also aggressive and can be fast spreading, thus reducing the chances for patient recovery.

In addressing the question “What is pancreatic cancer?”, one also must consider the potential causes of this dreaded disease.  They can include everything from uncontrollable factors like genetics and gender (with men more likely to be pancreatic cancer patients) to manageable factors like diet, weight and smoking.


Symptoms of pancreatic cancer, furthermore, can include weight loss, abdominal pain, and jaundice.  Unfortunately, many of these symptoms tend to appear in the advanced stages of the illness; another reason why pancreatic cancer is tough to diagnose.

Despite its high fatality rate, pancreatic cancer can be treated and even obliterated in its early stages, through methods like surgery and chemotherapy.  Doctors are continually finding new and innovative ways to battle all types of cancer, this type included.

In asking the question “What is pancreatic cancer?” one possible answer is “a manageable condition.”  If diagnosed early and treated properly, you can survive cancer of the pancreas.

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