Pancreatic cancer, also called exocrine cancer, forms in the tissue of the pancreas, an organ in the digestive system located in the abdomen. Endocrine cells in the pancreas create enzymes used to digest fats and proteins, and exocrine glands create insulin and hormones to help balance the amount of sugar in the blood. Cancer is more common in the exocrine cells and most tumors in this area are called adenocarcinomas.
Pancreatic cancer symptoms are not usually present in early stages, in advanced stages symptoms may include:
- Pain in the upper abdomen or upper back.
- Yellow skin and eyes, and dark urine (jaundice).
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Weight loss.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a MemorialCare Physician partner.
Risk Factors & Prevention
You are at a greater risk for pancreatic cancer risk if you:
- Are over the age of 70.
- Are male.
- Are African American.
- Smoke or are exposed to smoke.
- Are overweight.
- Have diabetes, chronic pancreatitis or cirrhosis of the liver.
- Have a family history of pancreatic cancer or inherited certain mutations in genes that can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Are exposed to chemicals such as pesticides and dyes.
The cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. Maintaining a healthy weight and diet, getting plenty of exercise and not smoking is recommended.