The pancreas is an elongated gland that is located behind the stomach. It is part of the endocrine system and the digestive system. Most importantly, it serves to produce digestive enzymes and secrete insulin and glucagon that help regulate blood levels of sugar.
Pancreatic cancer is known as pancreatic adenocarcinoma or pancreatic exocrine cancer. In rare cases, cancer can form in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas, and this is called islet cell cancer or pancreatic endocrine cancer.
Factors that may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer include:
- Age over 45
- Male gender
- African American descent
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
- Chronic pancreatitis
Signs and symptoms often do not appear until pancreatic cancer is advanced. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to your back
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
If you experience any of the symptoms above, call your doctor to make an appointment. There are several other conditions and disorders that can cause similar symptoms, but your doctor can help answer your questions and schedule any testing that may be necessary.