The pancreas is an organ located in the abdomen which helps digest food and regulate blood sugar. It is surrounded by other organs including the small intestine, liver and spleen. The pancreas is divided into four parts – the head, neck, body and tail.
Pancreatic cancers begin in the tissues of the pancreas, and are categorised according to
The pancreas is made up of two types of glands.
One type of gland tissue produces digestive enzymes that assist in the digestion of food. These glands drain into ducts, which in turn drain into the small intestine. It is the cells of these ducts which can turn into cancer. This is the most common form of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic exocrine cancers, which accounts for 95% of all pancreatic cancers. About 95% of these are adenocarcinomas.
Another type of gland tissue produces several important hormones such as insulin. Cancers of the glands in the pancreas are known as neuroendocrine pancreatic cancers and are uncommon, accounting for about 1% of all pancreatic cancers.
In Singapore, pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common cancer in males. It is generally aggressive and ranks as the 4th most common causes of cancer death in males and 5th most common cause of cancer death in females.