The pancreas primarily produces enzymes that help to break down fats and proteins, but it also produces hormones like insulin, which help to manage sugar (glucose) levels in the blood. These functions are performed by the exocrine and endocrine glands, respectively. Both exocrine and endocrine cells can develop into cancer, though exocrine tumors are much more common.
Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors
The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 45,220 new cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually. The lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 78.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
- Bring over the page of 45
- Being male
- Being African American
- Being obese
- Having type 2 diabetes
- Having chronic pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas
- Having a family history of pancreatic cancer
Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
See your doctor if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
- Pain in the abdomen or middle of the back
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swollen gallbladder
- Digestive problems when fatty foods are eaten
Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables are currently the best ways to prevent pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages because the area cannot be seen or felt easily by a doctor. While there are no blood tests that can screen for pancreatic cancer, your doctor may recommend diagnostic tests may be used if you develop symptoms or are at an especially high risk. Treatment for pancreatic cancer will likely involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Pancreatic Cancer Education, Screenings & Treatment at BayCare
BayCare is proud to offer a variety of cancer services throughout Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and all of Tampa Bay. Call (855) 314-8346 for a physician referral or find a doctor near you.