The pancreas is a gland between your stomach and spine. It produces juices that break down food and hormones that control blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer usually begins in the cells that produce the juices.
Some risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include smoking, long-term diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and certain hereditary disorders. Pancreatic cancer spreads quickly and is hard to catch early. It doesn’t cause symptoms right away. When you do get them, they are often vague. Also, the tumors are difficult to see or feel during routine exams because of where they’re located. Doctors use a physical exam, blood tests, imaging tests and a biopsy to diagnose it.
It is very important to distinguish between exocrine and endocrine cancers of the pancreas. They have distinct risk factors and causes, have different signs and symptoms, are diagnosed using different tests, are treated in different ways, and have different prognoses.