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Pancreatic cancer starts in the cells of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland that lies behind your stomach, deep in the upper part of the abdomen.
The pancreas is part of the digestive system. Digestive juices made by the pancreas flow down a tube in the centre of the pancreas called the pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct, which carries bile from the liver. The common bile duct then empties into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The pancreatic juices and bile help digest food in the duodenum after it has left the stomach.
The pancreas is also part of the hormonal system. It makes insulin and other hormones. Hormones made in the pancreas enter the bloodstream and help your body use or store the energy (made from sugar and fat) from the food you eat.
Most pancreatic cancers start in the pancreatic duct. Pancreatic cancer that starts in the cells that make hormones (called islet cell cancer) is rare.
A sign is something that can be observed and recognized by a doctor or healthcare professional (for example, a rash). A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can feel and know (for example, pain or tiredness).
Pancreatic cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms appear once the tumour grows into surrounding tissues and organs. The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer depend on where the tumour is located in the pancreas.
The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer can also be caused by other health conditions. It is important to have any unusual symptoms checked by a doctor.
Metastases in the lymph nodes near the belly button, or navel (Sister Mary Joseph nodes).
Cancer treatment is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the person with cancer to decide on a treatment plan
Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for pancreatic cancer are based on: