Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The pancreas produces digestive juices and hormones that regulate blood sugar. Cells called exocrine pancreas cells produce the digestive juices, while cells called endocrine pancreas cells produce the hormones.


Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skinand whites of the eyes)
  • Painin the upper or middle abdomen and back
  • Unexplained weightloss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

After taking down your health history and performing a physical exam, the doctor may order several tests to determine the cause of your problem or extent of the condition, including:

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Laparoscopy (surgical procedure to look at organs)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC; procedure used to X-ray liverand bile ducts)
  • Biopsy(removal of tissue to view it under a microscope)

There are various treatments for pancreatic cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat cancer, while radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells. Surgery can be used to remove a tumor or to treat symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

Only about 23% of patients with cancer of the exocrine pancreas are still living one year after diagnosis. Only about 4% are still living five years after being diagnosed.