November is pancreatic cancer awareness month and according to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, “Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. It is currently the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States after lung and colon.” There are different types of pancreatic cancer, but in general, it develops when cells in the pancreas grow uncontrollably, forming a lump or tumour. Exocrine tumours are the most common type, while neuroendocrine cancers are less common and behave differently.
Exocrine tumours first develop in the exocrine cells of the pancreas where enzymes are made. The enzymes created help break down food. About 95% of pancreatic cancers are exocrine tumours such as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
Neuroendocrine cancers develop in the neuroendocrine cells. These cells create hormones that help control how the body functions. For instance, these cells create insulin and glucagon that help control blood sugar levels.
Pancreatic cancer is rarely detected in its early stages when it is most curable. This is due to a lack of symptoms until after it has spread to other organs. Depending on the type of pancreatic cancer and what stage it is at, there are many different treatments that can be applied including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.
With pancreatic cancer being one of the deadliest cancers, it is important to raise awareness of this disease that gets too little attention and funding. There’s still time to raise funds and awareness for this important cause!