Pancreatic Cancer

By: Justin Wise

About Pancreatic Cancer


  • The pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. This type of cancer is often detected late, spreads rapidly, and has a poor prognosis.
  • There are no symptoms in the early stages. Later stages are associated with symptoms, but these can be non-specific, such as lack of appetite and weight loss.
  • Treatment may include surgically removing the pancreas, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Causes and Risks Factors

Scientists don't know exactly what causes most pancreatic cancers, but they have found several risk factors that can make a person more likely to get this disease. Some of these risk factors affect the DNA of cells in the pancreas, which can result in abnormal cell growth and may cause tumors to form.

Prognosis

  • Incidence Rate: This year, an estimated 53,070 adults (27,670 men and 25,400 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • Survival Rate: For stage IIB cancer, the 5-year survival rate is about 5% - 7%. The 5-year survival rate for stage III pancreatic cancer is about 3%. Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a 5-year survival rate of about 1%. Still, there are often treatment options available for people with this stage of cancer.
  • Mortality Rate: The number of deaths was 10.9 per 100,000 men and women per year.

Signs/Symptoms


Requires a medical diagnosis

  • There are no symptoms in the early stages. Later stages are associated with symptoms, but these can be non-specific, such as lack of appetite and weight loss.

Treatments


  • Treatment may include surgically removing the pancreas, radiation, and chemotherapy.
People may experience


  • Pain areas: in the abdomen or middle back
  • Gastrointestinal: fluid in the abdomen or nausea
  • Whole body: fatigue or loss of appetite
  • Also common: dark urine, weight loss, or yellow skin and eyes

Prevention: Although there's no proven way to prevent pancreatic cancer, you can take steps to reduce your risk, including:

  • Stop smoking- If you smoke, stop. Talk to your doctor about strategies to help you stop, including support groups, medications and nicotine replacement therapy. If you don't smoke, don't start.
  • Maintain a healthy weight- If you currently have a healthy weight, work to maintain it. If you need to lose weight, aim for a slow, steady weight loss — 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 or 1 kilogram) a week. Combine daily exercise with a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains with smaller portions to help you lose weight.
  • Choose a healthy diet- A diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains may help reduce your risk of cancer.
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