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BellaOnline's Cancer Editor


The Pancreas and Pancreatic Cancer

Guest Author - Rann Patterson

Location and Size
The pancreas is located in the abdomen, tucked directly under the stomach just below the spleen, not far from the kidney. It is long and narrow, approximately 7 inches long and 2-1/2 inches wide, narrowing at one end, and is yellowish in color.

What Pancreas Does
The pancreas basically serves two purposes. One is to aid the digestive system, and the other is to control the amount of sugar in the blood. The bile duct from the liver is directly integrated into, and is an extension of, this system. The duct ends are wrapped by cells that secrete digestive enzymes, and the hormones insulin and glucagon, which are used by the endocrine system.

As you can see, the small and much overlooked pancreas has a very important job to do. When a person is diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, they usually have had symptoms of pain in the upper abdomen, and sometimes jaundice if the bile duct is compressed by a tumor. Other known symptoms are weight loss, and loss of appetite.

Controls Insulin
Because of the importance the pancreas plays in controlling insulin in the bloodstream, diabetes is a common warning sign for possible pancreatic cancer down the road. Pancreatic cancer is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer” because in its early stages it does not cause symptoms. The later symptoms vary by person, and are usually nonspecific; therefore the disease is often not diagnosed until it is advanced. And because the pancreas contributes to such vitally important bodily functions, when they are shut down by a tumor, the body quickly goes into decline.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death across the globe. It often has a poor prognosis. For all stages combined, the 1-5 year survival rate is only 25% and 6% respectively. When cancer of the pancreas spreads, it first does so through the regional lymph nodes, and later to the liver.

Risk Factors
Risk factors are family history of the disease and age, usually 60 and above. Smoking is discouraged, and the risk goes down 33% with a decade of non-smoking. Those with bad eating habits are at risk – 1) If your diet is low in fruits and vegetables. 2) A diet high in red meat. 3) A diet high in sugar sweetened soft drinks (in particular those with fructose). Obesity, along with chronic pancreatitis and gingivitis (gum disease) are also risk factors. The jury is still out as to whether alcohol is a risk factor or not. However, consuming more than four alcoholic drinks per day can cause chronic pancreatitis, which in turn predisposes a person to pancreatic cancer.

Help to Lower Risk
Prevention for this cancer would seem to start with a healthy diet. Also working to maintain an ideal weight would be helpful. To start a terrific game plan, visit the Low Carb site and Weight Loss site here at BellaOnline. I'm sure you will find great ideas. I’ll add the links at the bottom of the page.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Rann Patterson. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Rann Patterson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.


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