The pancreas is an organ located at the upper abdomen, and it lies behind the stomach. Within the pancreas is a system of small tubes, also known as pancreatic ducts, which transports enzymes produced by the pancreas into the small intestine to help digestion. The pancreas also produces a number of hormones to regulate body functions. One of these hormones is insulin, which regulates our blood sugar level.
Although there are a few types of tumours that can grow in the pancreas, when doctors talk about pancreas cancer, we usually refer to a cancer of the cells lining the ducts within the pancreas. Therefore, the scientific medical term for this type of cancer is known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. This is a very aggressive cancer. Only 1 out of 10 patients who have this disease can be treated by surgery. This is because most patients, upon diagnosis, are already at an advanced stage.
Generally there are 2 groups of people whom we see for pancreas cancer.
The first group are those who complained of one or more of the symptoms listed above.
The second group are those who have gone for some form of medical check-up and were found by chance to have some abnormalities.
This may include elevation of cancer markers, in particular CA 19-9.
Or they may have gone for some scans, like an ultrasound scan or CT scan, and were discovered to have a growth in the pancreas.
Cancers, including cancer of the pancreas, are due to genetic mutations of the cells.
As a result of these gene mutations, the pancreas cells start to multiply uncontrollably. These cells also have the ability to detach from the pancreas and invade into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body, or invade into the adjacent organs around the pancreas.
What are the risk factors of developing pancreas cancer?
The answer is yes. These may be less aggressive, and therefore cure is quite possible. Examples are:
These are some alternative surgical techniques to remove such tumours, and it include laparoscopic or keyhole operations. Other options include: