Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in men and women in the US and occurs when malignant cells grow out of control.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, include:
- age - most pancreatic cancer occurs in people over the age of 45.
- smoking - heavy cigarette smokers are two or three times more likely than non-smokers to develop pancreatic cancer.
- diabetes - pancreatic cancer occurs more often in people who have diabetes than in those who do not.
- gender - more men than women are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
- race - African Americans are more likely than Asians, Hispanics, or Caucasians to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
- family history - the risk for developing pancreatic cancer triples if a person's mother, father, or a sibling had the disease.
- chronic pancreatitis - this condition of the pancreas has been linked with increased risk for pancreatic cancer.
There are several types of pancreatic cancers. The most common pacreatic cancer, adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, occurs in the lining of the pancreatic duct. Not all tumors in the pancreas are cancerous. A benign tumor, like gastrinoma, can cause peptic ulcers by secreting above average levels of gastrin.
The following are the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- pain in the upper abdomen or upper back
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- jaundice (yellow skin and eyes, and dark urine)
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a complete diagnosis.