You have pancreatic cancer when there is a malignant growth in the tissue of your pancreas. Although the cancer can develop in different groups of cells in the pancreas, it often begins in the gland that secretes the digestive enzymes. Despite advances in medical science, your chances of recovering from pancreatic cancer are unfortunately low. The reason is that the moment you start experiencing symptoms, the cancer has often already formed metastases; it has spread into nearby lymph nodes, and sometimes the liver.
Your pancreas is a gland in your abdomen behind your stomach and above the kidneys. It is the second largest organ in your body after the liver. It plays two important functions:
- Exocrine function – this is the production of pancreatic enzymes (pancreatic juice) into the duodenum (the initial segment of the small intestine follows the stomach through the pylorus) by the duct of Wirsung (also called pancreatic duct); the juice involved in digestion of foods by breaking down the molecules more or less thick.
- Endocrine function – this function of the pancreas consists in the production of four hormones: insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide. After having discharged into the bloodstream, these hormones, primarily glucagon and insulin, provide concentration of blood glucose, and prevent the development of hypoglycemia (decreased level of blood glucose).