Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month 2019

Published: 08 Nov 2019

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that just 9% people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will live beyond five years!  It’s the only major cancer with a single-digit survival rate. In fact, it’s the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, killing more people than breast cancer, and is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related death by 2020. 

These are shocking statistics, which is why it’s vital that everyone is aware of the risk factors and know how to recognize the symptoms for an early diagnosis and an improved chance of survival.

In 2018, more than 55,000 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And it’s indiscriminate, claiming the lives of some well-known personalities including singer Aretha Franklin, Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, music manager and Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson, musical artist Charles Neville, Time Warner Foundation President Lisa Garcia Quiroz and former Starbucks CEO Orin C. Smith

What is the pancreas?

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. Because of where the pancreas is situated within the body, 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.

Why is it so deadly?

Unfortunately, as yet, there is no screening test or early detection method, which means most patients are diagnosed when the disease has spread outside of the pancreas and surgery is no longer an option. 

Sometimes called the silent cancer because it’s hard to spot early on, patients tend not to seek treatment in the early stages, because symptoms do not usually appear until the later stages of the disease as the tumor grows. However, the chances of survival increase tenfold if a patient is diagnosed in time for surgery which is why it’s so important to understand the risks and catch any symptoms as early as possible.

What are the symptoms? 

The difficulty is that the symptoms are often vague and are generally attributed to other less serious and more common conditions. We urge everyone to pay attention to their health and to consult a doctor if you have any concerns.

It is important to remember that a lot of different conditions can cause these and similar symptoms. Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have pancreatic cancer. However, it is a good reason to see your doctor.

Doctors will need to rule out all other possible causes for your symptoms. This means you will need different tests and it may take some time before you get your diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed primarily through the use of CT, MRI, EUS, ERCP scans, laparoscopy and biopsy.

Who’s most at risk?

The American Cancer Society says that the average lifetime risk of developing cancer of the pancreas in both men and women is 1 in 65. However, there are certain factors and life-style choices that might make you more likely to face the disease. because it’s so difficult to spot in the first place, prevention is the best way to stay safe:

If you want to share your stories or ask advice, please join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group where thousands of members are ready to welcome you.  

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