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What is the Pancreas Cancer?

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a large organ (a volume point of view, this is the second gland after the liver). It is located deep in the abdomen behind the stomach.

The pancreas has two different roles. It is involved in digestion (part "exocrine"), and in the manufacture of hormones such as insulin or glucagon ("endocrine" portion).

What are the risk factors?

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer are mostly poorly understood. We know that smoking (which increases the risk by two or three) and diabetes may be involved in some forms, but not necessarily be determinative. On the other hand, some conditions such as chronic pancreatitis * or some other tumors may play a role, as well as certain genetic diseases that predispose to cancer.

Are there different types of pancreatic cancer?

Yes, there are two major types of pancreatic cancers depending on the location of the tumor. In the majority of cases (90-95%), cancer affects the exocrine portion of the pancreas. This is known as pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Also occur, but very exceptional exocrine tumors of various adenocarcinomas, very difficult to differentiate.

What can be the signs?

If it is an adenocarcinoma (cancer of the exocrine part of the pancreas), and it touches the head of the pancreas, appears frequently jaundice (jaundice) caused by compression of the common bile duct. If the tumor involves rather the body or head of the exocrine pancreas, the patient may suffer severe abdominal pain radiating into the back, or a sudden deterioration of general health (fatigue, weight loss, anorexia ...), or yet recent brutal and diabetes.

The great difficulty of pancreatic cancer prognosis and severity are mainly related to the lack of means of screening and early diagnosis validated.

Pancreatic cancer in a few figures

In 2005 more than 7000 new cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed. It affects mostly men (53.8%). The same year, he was responsible for over 7700 deaths. It concerns mainly the elderly. Rare before age 50, the average age at diagnosis is 69 years for men, 74 for women.

What treatments for cancer of the pancreas?

For exocrine cancer, therapeutic decision is based on a single criterion: "the patient is there or not operable?" Indeed, surgery (total resection) is reserved for those whose tumor is limited to a minority of cases (about 15% of cases).

Chemotherapy is a systematic treatment, the patient has had surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) or not (it is then, where appropriate, with or without radiation treatment).

Endocrine tumors of the pancreas exocrine tumors differ greatly. Thus, most of them are slow-growing or indolent, even in their metastatic forms, and all are fairly good prognosis. Some will not be dealt with first, but simply monitored: if they do not move for six months, the 5-year survival approaches 100%.

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