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Pancreatic cancer

2-minute read

Pancreatic cancer is a disease of the pancreas – an organ in your abdomen. The survival rate for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is low because it is usually diagnosed at a late stage.

It’s not known what causes pancreatic cancer but some things, such as smoking, being overweight or having had pancreatitis make it more likely.

If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer you’ll probably be given an indication of the stage of the cancer.

The stage of your cancer will influence the treatment and care options your doctor will discuss with you.

What does my pancreas do?

The pancreas is a gland near your stomach and small intestine. It releases enzymes through ducts into your small intestine to help you digest food.

It also releases hormones including insulin into your blood vessels to help your body control how it transforms food into energy.

How common is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common cancer in men and the ninth most common in women in Australia. More than 3,000 people in Australia develop pancreatic cancer each year. Most of these people are over the age of 50.

What are the chances of surviving pancreatic cancer?

More than 8 in 10 pancreatic cancers have spread from the pancreas to other body organs when they are first diagnosed. Pancreatic cancer usually spreads rapidly. In most cases it’s impossible to remove the cancer with surgery. The survival rates for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are low.

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Last reviewed: July 2019

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