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  • Michael Misialek, MD

Pancreatic Cancer: What You Need to Know


In yet another celebrity cancer diagnosis, John Hurt, Academy Award nominee for “The Elephant Man” and “Midnight Express”, recently announced he is suffering from pancreatic cancer. Celebrity cancer stories, though unfortunate, do bring a benefit. They bring awareness to the particular cancer type that often reaches far more ears than the years of advocacy efforts waged by charity organizations. Immediately, people took notice when Angelina Jolie, Rita Wilson and Sheryl Crow made headlines with breast cancer diagnoses. Now it is John Hurt and pancreatic cancer. One may recall the media coverage surrounding movie star Patrick Swayze and Apple founder Steve Jobs, who also were stricken by pancreatic cancer. What is pancreatic cancer and why is it such a killer?

The pancreas is a gland located in the abdomen, adjacent to the stomach and small intestine. It produces enzymes necessary for digestion and is also vital to blood sugar regulation through its production of insulin and glucagon.

There are many type of pancreatic cancer. About 85% of cancers are ductal adenocarcinoma. The remainder are divided among rare types, most notably those arising from the endocrine cells of the pancreas. These are called neuroendocrine carcinoma.

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