Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer; here's what you need to know

10, Nov 2022

Pancreatic cancer is a lethal disease rarely detected at an early stage.

It is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

It is estimated that more than 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by the end of this year, and more than 48,000 people will die of it.

The exact causes pancreatic cancer are still not yet well understood.

Factors that increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer include diabetes, smoking, chronically inflamed pancreas, family history of genetic disorders that can increase cancer risk, family history of pancreatic cancer, and older age.

Additional factors that may increase risk include consuming a diet high in red or processed meats and obesity.

Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas — an organ in the abdomen that lies behind the lower portion of the stomach.

The pancreas has two primary functions: It makes digestive enzymes such as amylase and lipase; And it also produces hormones, such as insulin, that control how our bodies store and utilize glucose — sugar that is the body’s primary source of energy.

There are two forms of pancreatic cancer: exocrine and endocrine.

Exocrine cancer accounts for approximately 95 percent of all cases.

Endocrine cancer is also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, or islet cell tumors.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma represents approximately 85 percent of all pancreatic neoplasms.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma begins in the ductal cells that deliver digestive enzymes produced by the pancreatic cells into the duodenum.

While some of these risk factors are out of your control, here are some lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk:

If you smoke, try to stop. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation strategies, including medications, support groups, and nicotine replacement therapy.

Work to maintain a healthy diet. Engage in daily aerobic exercise with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that may reduce your cancer risk.

Common presenting symptoms in patients with exocrine pancreatic cancer are fatigue, unintentional weight loss, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, oily stools and back pain.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer typically do not occur until the disease is advanced.

The condition is rarely detected at its early stages when it is the most curable.

Early detection helps save lives. So, learn and share the facts, symptoms and risk factors of pancreatic cancer, motivate healthy choices and provide guidance on when to seek genetic counseling.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, which paves the opportunity to learn more about the risk factors of this highly lethal malignancy, inspire the community to take action, and drive research toward a cure.

November is a month of inspiration for communities touched by pancreatic cancer.

Why wait? Call your doctor to help you take the proper steps to prevent pancreatic cancer, seek immediate intervention and educate others.


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Dr. Sue Mitra and her staff strive to offer their patients the best care, advice and services available in the medical field with the goal to keep patient healthy & happy.