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Diagnosis and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is an important organ found behind the stomach and intestines in front of the back bones. It is mostly above the kidneys. It is essential for proper digestion and also for the production of important hormones such as insulin.

How common is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death overall, according to the American Cancer Society. 48,960 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas during 2015, and 40,560 will die from the disease. This disease is unfortunately often asymptomatic when in its earliest stages. Symptoms due to this type of cancer often only occur when the cancer is no longer removable and may already have spread in the body. Only about 6% of all pancreatic cancer patients are alive 5 years following their diagnosis.

While pancreatic cancer is rare, a few high profile cases have given it public attention. In October 2011, Apple founder Steve Jobs died at age 56 after a seven-year battle with an unusual type of pancreatic cancer. Actor Patrick Swayze died from pancreatic cancer in September 2009. While pancreatic cancer is not one of the most common forms of cancer, it can be considered one of the most deadly because it is aggressive, spreads rapidly, and is thus often not diagnosed until it is in later stages; few treatment options exist.

Last Reviewed 9/11/2017

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