The pancreas is a gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine. It produces juices that help break down food and hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Cancer of the pancreas is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Some risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include
- Long-term diabetes
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Certain hereditary disorders
Pancreatic cancer is hard to catch early. It doesn't cause symptoms right away. When you do get symptoms, they are often vague or you may not notice them. They include yellowing of the skin and eyes, pain in the abdomen and back, weight loss and fatigue. Also, because the pancreas is hidden behind other organs, health care providers cannot see or feel the tumors during routine exams. Because it is often found late and it spreads quickly, pancreatic cancer can be hard to treat. Possible treatments include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
For more information, visit www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pancreaticcancer.html.