First, the good news - research is being done and scientists are learning more every day about the causes of pancreatic cancer. Progress IS being made, and research has already led to better treatment for the diasease, a better quality of life for patients, and a decrease in deaths from pancreatic cancer.
The pancreas is a little organ only about 6 inches long that is located between the stomach and the spine. It is responsible for producing insulin as well as other hormones. Additionally, it makes pancreatic juices containing enzymes that help in digesting food.
Most cases of cancer starts in the ducts that carry pancreatic juices. Cancer of the pancreas is also called carcinoma of the pancreas. The terms are used interchangeably.
*Note: There is a rare cases that start in the cells that make insulin and other hormones. Cancer that starts in these cells is called islet cell cancer.
There are, of course, certain risk factors that scientists say increase the chances of a person developing the disease. It is important to note, however, that many people with all of the risk factors do not get pancreatic cancer and that people who have none of the risk factors do get it.
The risk factors that scientists have identified are:
1. Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of developing all kinds of cancer, according to scientists.
2. Age: Most cases if this type of cancer are diagnosed in patients over the age of 60.
3. Race: African Americans have a greater risk of developing the diasease than other ethnic groups.
4. Sex: Males more often develop pancreatic cancer than females.
5. Family History: If there is a history of pancreatic cancer in the family, there is a greater risk for a patient to develop it.
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