Using data released by the American Cancer Society (ACS), medical experts say that of the patients afflicted with cancer of the exocrine pancreas, only 23 percent may survive after one year while only four percent will still be living after the end of five years. Cases of this serious disease have been prominently reported in the media when a medical expert revealed a link between pancreatic cancer and Byetta, a medicine used for treating type 2 diabetes.
Although the cause of pancreatic cancer has yet to be determined, the medical world has recognized risk factors of this disease. Included as risk factors are chronic pancreatitis, genetic disposition, smoking, unhealthy diet, alcohol use, and obesity.
Formation of malignant cells in the tissues of the pancreas signals the start of pancreatic cancer. Located behind the abdomen in an extended horizontal position, the pancreas is a gland that is responsible for the production of digestive juices and hormones. Aiding in the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, digestive juices or enzymes are secreted from the pancreas. Insulin and glucagon are the two hormones released by the pancreas which helps in regulating the metabolism of blood sugar. The exocrine pancreas cells produce the digestive juices while the endocrine pancreas is responsible for the hormones.
Onset of this disease occurs when cells in the pancreas develop mutations in their DNA. The continued mutation will result to uncontrollable growth of these cells which may accumulate to form a tumor. Pancreatic exocrine cancer may then be developed by this growth of cells along the ducts of the pancreas. Also known as pancreatic adenocarcinoma, this is the most common form of pancreatic cancer, accounting for 95 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases.
This disease has been called the silent killer since it is only in the advanced stage and where surgical options are not possible that symptoms appear. Usually in the later stages when these symptoms do appear, they come in the form of abdominal pain in the upper area that radiates to the back and jaundice which is characterized by yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Jaundice results when the cancer interferes in the bile duct and liver while the abdominal pain is caused by the tumor pressing on the nerves. Other symptoms may include an unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, and depression.
This type of cancer has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early, which may explain why this disease ranks as among the leading causes of death. It is very important that once these symptoms appear, you should see your doctor immediately.