What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by out-of-control cell growth, and pancreatic cancer occurs when this uncontrolled cell growth begins in the pancreas. These abnormal cells continue to divide beyond the normal confines of the pancreas and form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors. Depending on where the tumors are in the pancreas, they can interfere with the normal functions of the pancreas resulting in diabetes or digestion problems.
When a tumor stays in one confined spot and demonstrates limited growth, it is generally considered to be benign.
More dangerous, or malignant, tumors form when the cancer cells move to other parts of the body through the blood or lymph systems. When a tumor successfully spreads to other parts of the body and grows, invading and destroying other healthy tissues, it is said to have metastasized.
Cancer of the pancreas accounts for approximately 2% of all cancers and is the fourth most frequent cause of cancer death. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 43,920 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012 , and that 37,390 Americans will die from this disease this year.