Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about pancreatic cancer?
Sure, Major Spencer. Most pancreatic cancers form in the exocrine cells, which are the cells that produce digestive enzymes. These tumors do not secrete hormones and do not cause signs or symptoms, which makes it very difficult to diagnose this type of pancreatic cancer early. It's often diagnosed later, once the tumor has grown very large or has spread, and causes symptoms from compression on neighboring tissues and ducts.
Less common pancreatic cancers form in the neuroendocrine cells, which are the cells that produce hormones, such as insulin and glucagon. The prognosis for neuroendocrine tumors is typically better than the prognosis for pancreatic exocrine cancers.
Unfortunately, the survival rate for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is very low because it's often detected so late. Early detection significantly increases the likelihood of survival, but less than 10 percent of cases are diagnosed at an early stage.