About Pancreatic Cancer
The pancreas is a gland of the digestive system. It is joined to the small bowel by a duct. Pancreatic cancer starts in the cells lining this duct. It then spreads into the body of the pancreas, before invading nearby nerves and blood vessels.
If left untreated, it will spread to all the organs in the abdomen. Pancreatic cancer may also enter the lymphatic system and spread to other parts of the body.
The pancreas has two major roles in the digestive system:
- It produces enzymes to help break down food.
- It makes hormones that enter the body and flow around the bloodstream. The most important of these is insulin, which helps to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.
There are different types of Pancreatic cancer, which include:
- Adenocarcinoma is the most common cancer of the pancreas, accounting for 95% of cases.
- Neurendocrine/Islet cell carcinoma involves cells that secrete a variety of hormones. Tumors can be functional and produce high amounts of hormones, or non-functional and not produce any hormones. Most islet cell tumors are malignant, but some such as insulin-producing islet cell tumors generally tend to be benign.
- Isolated sarcomas, lymphoma and metastases to the pancreas (particularly melanoma, renal cell cancer and colorectal cancer) can involve the pancreas, but these are exceedingly rare.
- Pseudopapillary neoplasms occur mostly in young women in their teens and twenties and can be malignant
Pancreatic Cancer Survival Rates and Statistics:
- It is estimated that in 2016, 3,213 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (1,623 men and 1,500 women).
- Pancreatic cancer makes up 2.4% of all new cancer cases diagnosed in 2016.
- Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality of all major cancers with 7% of patients reaching the 5-year survival mark. Two thirds of pancreatic cancer patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
- Survival rates for pancreatic cancer have not changed significantly in nearly 40 years.
Due to the lack of research into pancreatic cancer, many treatments and surgeries for the disease are still being trialed. Pancare encourages patients to do their research and seek opinions from a number of different medical professionals, to ensure the highest chance of survival and recovery.