The pancreas is an organ of the digestive system located deep in the upper part of the abdomen, behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It is only about 2 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches long and sits length wise across the abdomen.
Most often, pancreatic cancer starts in the ducts that carry digestive juices. Because the pancreas lies deep in the abdomen, a doctor performing an examination on a patient may not be able to feel a tumor in the pancreas. When early symptoms do occur, they are often vague and nonspecific. Many of the symptoms can be caused by medical conditions other than pancreatic cancer.
Tests and procedures to detect, diagnose and stage pancreatic cancer are usually done at the same time. In order to plan treatment, it is important to know the stage of the disease and whether or not the pancreatic cancer can be removed by surgery.
Learn more about the risk factors for pancreatic cancer from the National Cancer Institute.