Pancreatic cancer is a form of malignant tumor of the pancreas. The condition can develop from the pancreatic head in 80% of cases, or the body and tail of the pancreas. In 90% of cases, the cancerous cells develop from the group of cells that line the duct leading into the intestine the pancreatic juice, an enzyme-containing secretion which contains trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen, elastase, carboxypeptidase, pancreatic lipase, nucleases and amylase.
Most Pancreatic cancers are diagnosed at an advanced or late stage, between 80 and 90%, which causes the treatment often difficult and ineffective – please see pancreatic cancer treatment. One of the reasons is that the pancreas is located in the hollow of the abdomen and it is devoid of nerve endings that could signal a problem by sending pain signals to the brain. That is, the tumor is generally asymptomatic at early stages. For more info, please pancreatic cancer symptoms and warning signs.
It is therefore difficult to diagnose any type of malignancy of the pancreas at an early stage, which makes the disease one of the most deadly cancers worldwide. Pancreatic cancer prognosis is unpleasant; more than three quarters of patients die within 12 months of diagnosis, and only 2% survive up to 5 years. In the US, adenocarcinoma of the pancreasis the 4th leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women, causing the death of about 28,000 people each year, according to The American Cancer Society (ACS).
The cancer may be detected by chance during an imaging test, such as an ultrasound or CT scan of the abdomen performed for another reason. It also happens that diagnosis occurs incidentally during a surgical procedure for a pre-cancerous lesion or cyst of the pancreas that your doctor decides to surgically remove. This can lead to early detection. In this case, the pancreatic cancer treatment can provide survival chance.
The pancreas is a vital organ elongated and triangular shape, approximately 15 cm long, which lies behind the stomach. Its function is twofold: 1st, exocrine function, secreting enzymes (pancreatic juice), which is discharged into the duodenum and essential for the digestion of fats and proteins; 2nd, endocrine function, producing hormones, insulin and glucagon, in order to regulate sugar (glucose) in the blood. Over 95% of pancreatic cancers affect the region which provides the exocrine function of the pancreas.
Development of cancerous tumor occurs when a group of cells becomes abnormally belligerent and begin to reproduce anarchically to form a malignant mass. Without a proper treatment, the malignant cells will continue to proliferate in an uncontrolled manner and more or less rapid and spread elsewhere in the body to form other cancers, metastases.