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The pancreas is a large gland located deep in the abdomen between the stomach and the spine. It has two important roles in the body. The first one is to produce the pancreatic digestive juices and the second one is to produce insulin and other hormones that support the digestive system.
Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissue of the pancreas. It is sometimes referred to as exocrine cancer. According to UK cancer statistics, pancreatic cancer accounts for 3% of all cancers. It is the 10th most common cancer in the UK, with an average of just over 20 cases diagnosed every day. It is uncommon in people under 40 years of age.
Although the exact causes of most pancreatic cancers are not known, the risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer are as follows:
There are three types of standard treatment used for pancreatic cancer; these are surgery (the tumour is taken out), radiotherapy (the cancer cells are killed by using radiation) and chemotherapy (the growth of malignant cells is stopped by using certain drugs). Common chemotherapy regimens include:
Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to completely remove the tumour - it has usually spread outside the pancreas or it is too large by the time patients experience any symptoms and present to the doctor. Often a surgeon will perform a bypass procedure called a Whipple's operation. This allows the food to pass from the stomach to the small bowel and the bile to pass from the liver to the gut freely. Alternatively, a stent is inserted into the bile duct during a procedure called ERCP. This involves a flexible tube which passes from through the mouth into the part of the gut next to the bile duct, the physician can look down the tube and then insert a small plastic tube up the duct.
Find out more about pancreatic cancer:
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