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The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach. It is responsible for secreting enzymes to aid in digestion and regulate metabolism and blood sugar. Pancreatic cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the pancreas.

There are two types of cancer, based on where in the pancreas cancer first started to spread:

Exocrine tumors. This is the most common type of cancer in the pancreas. Exocrine tumors (adenocarcinoma) usually starts in the ducts of the pancreas.

Endocrine tumors. Endocrine tumors are also called pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors or islet cell tumors. These makeup about 1% of all pancreatic tumors.

Symptoms and signs of pancreatic cancer can include:

  • Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Pain that’s centralized in the upper or middle abdomen and back
  • Unintended weight loss
  • New onset diabetes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

“Is pancreatic cancer genetic?” is an extremely common question, and the answer is not as simple as “yes” or “no.” The primary cause of all cancers is a mutation in the DNA. For example, a mutation in the tumor suppressor gene causes cells to divide and grow uncontrollably until a tumor forms. There are certain risk factors tied to pancreatic cancer, including:

  • Pancreatitis, which is chronic inflammation of the pancreas
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of genetic syndromes linked to cancer risk or pancreatic cancer specifically
  • Obesity
  • Older age
  • Smoking


Prevention of all types of pancreatic cancer is not possible, but there are certain lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk. Behaviors linked to the prevention of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range
  • Stick to a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains


The most appropriate treatment option for a patient with pancreatic cancer will depend on the stage of cancer and other factors. Options include:



Related specialties

Pancreatic Cancer

Our Cancer Center provides the highest quality pancreatic cancer treatment available in a patient centric environment at Adena Regional Medical Center in Chillicothe OH.

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