According to the American Cancer Society about 53,670 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. The average lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer for both men and women is 1.5% (about 1 in 65) although this is largely dependent on the existing risk factors.

About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer develops when cells in the pancreas start to grow out of control. The pancreas is the large gland located behind the stomach. It is responsible for a number of functions including the release of digestive enzymes into the small intestine and the release of the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. The beta cells of the pancreas secrete the insulin in response to high blood sugar level while the alpha cells of the organ secrete the glucagon in response to low blood sugar level.

Like most types of cancer, the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown. However, doctors believe that there are factors that can increase one’s risk of developing it. These include smoking, chronic inflammation of the pancreas (also known as pancreatitis), diabetes, obesity, older age, and a family history of pancreatic cancer.


Most cases of pancreatic cancer are asymptomatic until the cancer is on its advanced stage. When in advanced stages, symptoms of pancreatic cancer include jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin and white part of the eye), loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, pain felt in the upper or middle part of the abdomen and back, fatigue, and depression.

Diagnosing and Treating Pancreatic Cancer

If you’re experiencing jaundice, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal pain for weeks, it is likely time to see a doctor. A medical professional can rule out other possible causes of these signs and symptoms.

If the physician suspects pancreatic cancer, they may recommend that you undergo imaging tests, a biopsy, and blood tests. These are done to visualize the internal organs, examine a sample tissue from the pancreas, and to determine the presence of certain tumor markers.

The extent of your cancer is determined by staging. The stage is also the prime factor to consider when choosing the most appropriate treatment for your pancreatic cancer.

Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these are the usual treatment for pancreatic cancer. Surgery is typically suggested for those with advanced cases of pancreatic cancer and for those whose cancer is affecting the nearby blood vessels.

Being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or any form of cancer can be scary but know that there are people who can help you out. Premier Surgical Associates of Knoxville have experienced surgical oncologists who will take care of you from diagnosis to treatment. For more information, visit Premier’s Surgical Oncology webpage.