Your pancreas, which is located below your stomach, is about six inches long by two inches wide. It contains two different types of glands: exocrine glands and endocrine glands. Exocrine glands manufacture enzymes that break down fats and proteins in food so your body can absorb them. Endocrine glands make hormones likes insulin that helps maintain the blood sugar level.
The majority of pancreatic cancer cases originate in the exocrine glands. Less common are tumors that form in the endocrine glands. A rarer type is a form of ampullary cancer that starts where the bile duct from the liver and the pancreatic duct flow into the small intestine. In 2012 nearly 44,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Smoking, diabetes and obesity have been associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Extended pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas, is also a risk factor. Later stage symptoms may include dark urine, yellow skin and eyes from jaundice, pain in the upper abdomen or middle back, pale or floating stool and nausea and vomiting.