Patient Information

Pancreas cancer general information

The pancreas is a pear-shaped gland, about 6 inches long that that lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It has two basic functions. Firstly, it produces digestive enzymes or juices that are secreted into the small intestine to help break down and digest food. This function is performed by cells called exocrine cells. Its second function is to produce hormones (insulin and glucagon) that regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels, critical to providing nutrition for the body’s tissues and organs. These hormones are produced by the endocrine cells of the pancreas.

Approximately 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells and are known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC).

Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells appear in the pancreas.

It affects over 42,000 people in the United States and about 70,000 people in Europe every year.

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