Archive for June, 2009

DOCTOR IS IN: Patrick Swayze has it, but do you understand pancreatic cancer?

By David Kooby, MD

Usually we do not see a lot of attention focused on pancreatic cancer in the media, but the illness of a celebrity has put it front and center.

Just some basics: the pancreas is a gland located deep in the abdomen between the stomach and the spine. This organ is about six inches long, shaped like a banana peel.

The pancreas is important to us because it makes insulin along with other hormones. These hormones enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, helping to use or store the energy that comes from food. Insulin, in particular, helps control the amount of sugar in the blood. The pancreas also makes digestive juices containing enzymes that help break down fat.

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive malignancy that begins in the cells of the duct (or tube) running along the length of the pancreas. Each year about 42,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed and more than 35,000 people die from this cancer. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is …

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