December 19, 2014
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Condition Factsheets

 Health Home >> Conditions 

Pancreatic Cancer

(Cancer of the Pancreas)

The Facts on Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that makes digestive juices, insulin, and other hormones. The digestive juices flow through ducts into the intestine. Most pancreatic cancers occur in these ducts.

About 1 in 79 people will develop pancreatic cancer over their lifetime. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths in Canada. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer is about the same for both men and women.

Pancreatic cancer is sometimes called a "silent disease" because it is difficult to detect and symptoms do not usually appear until the cancer has grown for quite some time.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

Cancer is caused by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. When these cells grow and form a mass it is called a tumour. When pancreatic cancer cells break away and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system, they can spread the cancer. The spread of cancer is called metastasis, and places where the cancer has spread are called metastases.

The reason for the development of cancer cells in the pancreas is not known, but research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than others.

Studies have shown that the following factors increase risk for pancreatic cancer:

  • age: Pancreatic cancer risk increases with age. Most occur in people over age 60.
  • chronic pancreatitis: Someone with chronic pancreatitis (painful inflammation of the pancreas) may have increased risk for pancreatic cancer.
  • diabetes: Pancreatic cancer is more common in people who have diabetes.
  • family history: Someone with a mother, father, sister, or brother who has had pancreatic cancer is at three times higher risk for the condition.
  • obesity: Being overweight or obese is linked to double the risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • smoking: People who smoke cigarettes are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people who do not smoke.

Of these risk factors, smoking is the most significant, accounting for an estimated one-third of pancreatic cancer cases.





Symptoms and Complications of Pancreatic Cancer

The early stages of pancreatic cancer often have no symptoms. As the cancer grows, the following symptoms may occur:

  • loss of appetite
  • leg swelling due to blood clot in the veins
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • pain in the upper abdomen or upper back
  • symptoms of increased blood sugar (e.g., unusual thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision)
  • unintended weight loss
  • yellow skin and eyes, dark urine (a condition known as jaundice)

Continued... 1 | 2 | Next


Did you find what you were looking for on our website? Please let us know.

Ad

The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.

© 1996 - 2014 MediResource Inc. - MediResource reaches millions of Canadians each year.