The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach. It releases enzymes that help with digestion, as well as hormones that help regulate blood sugar levels.
If you have pancreatic cancer, you won’t be able to feel a lump or mass when you press on the outside of your abdomen. You may not have any symptoms until the cancer has already spread. Unlike breast, colon, and prostate cancers, pancreatic cancer isn’t routinely found with screening tests. People aren’t generally tested because no screening test for pancreatic cancer has been proven to save lives.
Pancreatic cancer is sometimes called a silent disease because it’s hard to spot early, the stage when it’s most treatable. Besides knowing the symptoms, knowing the risk factors for pancreatic cancer is your best protection against this disease. For example, your chances of developing pancreatic cancer are significantly higher if:
- you have a family history of the cancer
- you’re a smoker
- you’re obese
- you’re exposed to certain pesticides and chemicals on a regular basis