More than 56,000 Americans will receive a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Of all different kinds of cancer, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rates.
When more people recognize the symptoms and understand who is more likely to develop this cancer, early detection can occur and that can lead to a better outcome for the patient. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, which is to bring awareness for the disease and to encourage early detection.
Why Observe Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month?
The goal of this month-long event is to improve awareness of the condition and to make sure more people are aware of the signs and know who is most at risk for developing pancreatic cancer. A gland in the abdomen, the pancreas is in front of the spine and behind the stomach. It aids in digestion and blood sugar regulation.
When abnormal cells within the pancreas grow out of control, they form a tumor. This leads to pancreatic cancer. A key to early detection, which can lead to better patient outcomes, is understanding the symptoms and awareness of the risk factors.
Some of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are loss of appetite, mid-pack or abdominal pain, jaundice, weight loss, nausea, recent onset of diabetes, and changes in stool.
What are the Risk Factors for Developing Pancreatic Cancer?
There are several risk factors that may increase the likelihood of an individual getting pancreatic cancer. The risk is greater if you have multiple first-degree relatives with the disease and this is also true if any relatives were diagnosed when younger than 50 years of age.
A diet that is high in processed and red meats has also shown to increase risk. If you have a diet high in vegetables and fruits, it can help decrease your chances of pancreatic cancer.
Those who are obese have 20 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer and Ashkenazi Jews and African-Americans have a higher incidence rate of the disease. It has been shown that smoking causes 20 percent to 30 percent of all exocrine pancreatic cancer cases reported.
There are more men than women diagnosed with the disease, the odds of being diagnosed with the cancer increase with age, individuals who have had diabetes more than five years have increased risk, and those with chronic pancreatitis have a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Those who have hereditary pancreatitis do have a slightly increased risk as well.
Treating Pancreatic Cancer
There are different treatment options for pancreatic cancer, including clinic trials, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The kind of treatment depends on the stage of diagnosis and how aggressive it is.
While pancreatic cancer is mostly incurable and has a poor prognosis, there is a potential for cure if the cancer is caught early. Reports indicate that as much as 10 percent of those who are diagnosed early are cancer-free after treatment.
If you have any symptoms, or if you are at higher risk for developing pancreatic cancer, speak with your healthcare provider. Cancer caught early often has a better outcome.