What is pancreatic cancer

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

  1. First, to produces digestive enzymes that help break down and digest food in the small intestine. This function is performed by cells called exocrine cells.
  2. Second, to produce hormones like insulin and glucagon, that regulate blood sugar levels and are critical for tissues and organs. This function is performed by cells called endocrine cells.

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


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