Overview of Pancreatic Cancer
The pancreas is a glandular organ located in the posterior aspect of the abdomen. It lies between the liver and the spleen, and just below and behind the stomach. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes (exocrine function), which are emptied into the small bowel, as well as the hormone insulin (endocrine function), which enters the blood stream.
Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that begins in the cells that line the glands and ducts within the pancreas. It accounts for 90% of cancers originating in the pancreas. This treatment overview deals only with adenocarcinoma of the exocrine pancreas, which will be referred to as pancreatic cancer.
There are approximately 53,000 individuals diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas in the United States each year, and approximately 43,000 individuals succumb to the disease annually. The incidence of carcinoma of the pancreas has markedly increased over the past several decades and ranks as the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Despite the high mortality rate associated with pancreatic cancer, its cause is poorly understood.1,2,3
The treatment of pancreatic cancer may consist of surgery, precision cancer medicines, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, and is likely to involve several different types of physicians. These physicians may include a gastroenterologist, a surgeon, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, or other specialists. Care must be carefully coordinated between the various treating physicians.
1 American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2017. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2017.
2 Silverman DT, Schiffman M, Everhart J, et al.: Diabetes mellitus, other medical conditions and familial history of cancer as risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Br J Cancer 80 (11): 1830-7, 1999. National failure to operate on early stage pancreatic cancer. Annals of Surgery. 2007;246:173-180.
3 Nöthlings U, Wilkens LR, Murphy SP, et al.: Meat and fat intake as risk factors for pancreatic cancer: the multiethnic cohort study. J Natl Cancer Inst 97 (19): 1458-65, 2005.