What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor that develops within the pancreas, which is a complex organ responsible for producing digestive enzymes and hormones that regulate blood sugar in your body. To better understand the symptoms and the mechanism of pancreatic cancer development, it is useful to gain a basic knowledge of how the pancreas works.
The pancreas is an organ that is divided in two parts:
- the exocrine component which produces enzymes that are discharged into the intestine along with bile from the liver
- the endocrine component that produces insulin and other hormones that control the blood sugar
Pancreatic cancer affects either of these types of tissues. Cancers arising from the endocrine component of the pancreas occur in rare instances and most pancreatic endocrine tumors are of benign nature. The exocrine pancreatic cancer, however, comprises 95% of all pancreatic cancer cases, and is an aggressive tumor that grows rapidly and spreads to other organs with few initial symptoms. Due to its speed of growth and aggressiveness, pancreatic cancer is the fourth cause of cancer deaths in the world.