Pancreatic cancer is a genetic disease that is one of the most common causes of death in men and women. It affects over 30,000 Americans annually. According to the scholars at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, pancreatic cancer is a big impediment in the twenty-first century. Before we begin to understand what causes pancreatic cancer, let us understand what is pancreas and where it is located in our body.
WHAT IS A PANCREAS?
The pancreas is a gland that is located in the abdomen. It plays a vital role in secreting hormones and helps the digestive system in digestion. This is a special organ of our body as its function is twofold: It helps in the secretion of hormones and also in the digestion of food. Therefore, it is termed as both an endocrine and an exocrine gland.
WHERE IS THE PANCREAS LOCATED IN THE HUMAN BODY?
The pancreas is present just behind the stomach, in the upper left abdomen. Other organs like the liver, small intestine, and spleen surround it. It is a spongy gland that is six to ten inches in length. It is shaped like a flat pear or a fish that is extended across the abdomen.
FUNCTION OF A PANCREAS
A healthy pancreas produces the right chemicals in the required proportionate to digest the food we consume.
- FUNCTION OF PANCREAS AS AN EXOCRINE GLAND
The pancreas contains some exocrine glands which produce enzymes that help in digestion. Enzymes like trypsin, chymotrypsin, amylase, and lipase, etc, are produced by the pancreas.
- FUNCTION OF PANCREAS AS AN ENDOCRINE GLAND
The endocrine glands in the pancreas produce hormones necessary for growth. These hormones are directly released into the bloodstream. Two important hormones produced by the pancreas are; insulin and glucagon.
Now that we have understood what is pancreas and the functions of the pancreatic gland, let us know what causes pancreatic cancer.
WHAT CAUSES PANCREATIC CANCER?
It is not specifically known what causes pancreatic cancer. However, with the advancement of medicine, doctors have compiled some factors which may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer can develop due to cell mutations in the pancreas, that is, the mutation or change in the DNA of a cell. These mutations perpetuate the mutated cells to grow uncontrollably after the normal cells die. These cells then collectively form a tumor and if left undisturbed, these cells can spread all over the body.
RISK FACTORS OF PANCREATIC CANCER
What are some factors which can cause pancreatic cancer?
- Family history of mutation and vulnerability to cancer
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
- Old age
With the progression of pancreatic cancer, the body can experience many complications. Some of them are
- Weight loss
- Body ache
- Obstruction in bowel movements
The risk of pancreatic cancer can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and choosing a healthy diet. If there is a family history of genetic mutations healthy pancreas, you must see a genetic counselor.