Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that affects the pancreas, an organ that lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The pancreas is responsible for producing hormones like insulin and glucagon, which help control our blood sugar levels. It also produces enzymes that help breakdown protein and carbohydrates during digestion.
Like other organs in the body, the pancreas is vulnerable to cancer. There are several types of pancreatic cancer; however the most common is Aden carcinoma. This type of cancer affects cells that produce digestive enzymes.
Much less common types of pancreatic cancer include islet cell carcinoma, pancreatic blastoma, and pseudo papillary neoplasms.
Pancreatic Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Although we cannot pinpoint what causes pancreatic cancer, researchers have identified several risk factors. A risk factor is something that increases the likelihood that you will develop pancreatic cancer, but is not a guarantee. Risk factors of pancreatic cancer include:
• Smoking. Smokers are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-smokers.
• Increasing age. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer greatly increases after age 50.
• Having Diabetes. Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed more often in people with diabetes.
• Chronic Pancreatitis. Chronic inflammation of the pancreas may slightly increase your risk of pancreatic cancer.
• Family History. Pancreatic cancer runs in some families. About 10% of cases are thought to be related to inherited genetic mutations.
Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Many times there is a delay in diagnosing pancreatic cancer because the symptoms are also associated with many other illnesses. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are not exclusive to the disease. Symptoms rarely occur in the early stages and are gradual.
At least 50% of people with pancreatic cancer experience jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Other pancreatic cancer symptoms include:
• Weight loss
• Glucose intolerance
• Abdominal discomfort or pain
• sudden onset of diabetes
• brown or orange colored urine
When the pancreas produce too much insulin, other symptoms such as chills, diarrhea, general feeling of weakness, and muscle spasms may also be experienced.
Pancreatic Cancer Prevention
There are simply no proven means of preventing pancreatic cancer. By avoiding what risk factors we can for bladder cancer, we may be able to reduce our chances of developing it.
Quit Smoking or Don’t Start. Smoking is a significant risk factor for pancreatic cancer. As soon as you quit (it’s never too late!), your body reaps the benefits of being tobacco free.
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