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FIVE THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PANCREATIC CANCER

SYMPTOMS ARE OFTEN VAGUE

Many times, symptoms of pancreatic cancer present when the disease is already in a later stage.
Symptoms like pain in the back between or just below the shoulder blades, or abdominal pain in the so-called “solar plexus,” which is the midway between your breast bone and your belly button, are often not present until later stages of disease.
Jaundice, which leads to the yellowing of the skin, darkened urine and clay-colored stools are also concerning symptoms.
Other symptoms like nausea, fatigue and weight loss are also possible, but these symptoms are vague and could be indicative of a variety of ailments, not cancer specifically.

TESTING IS AVAILABLE FOR HIGH-RISK INDIVIDUALS

If you have two primary family members who had or have pancreatic cancer (this includes parents, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters) or if you suffer from genetic disorders known to increase pancreatic cancer risk such as BRCA mutations, mutations in the so-called “Fanconi’s Anemia Pathway” and other heritable disorders discussed below, regular surveillance and testing may be an option for you and should be performed under the guidance of a multidisciplinary pancreatic cancer care team.

OTHER ILLNESSES MAY INCREASE YOUR PANCREATIC CANCER RISK

If you are overweight, obese or a smoker, your risk of developing pancreatic cancer is increased. African-Americans and men are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease, as are people older than 45 years of age.
“New onset diabetes, especially in the setting of weight loss, or worsening diabetes control in the absence of dietary or bodily modifications can also be concerning signs of pancreatic cancer,” Warner said.
Chronic pancreatitis is another potential warning sign.
“People with chronic pancreatitis are at a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer just because anytime you have inflamed cells, those cells are going be turning over more often,” said Warner.
“Anytime you have increased cell turnover, you have an opportunity for those cells to escape the normal pathways.”
Other genetic syndromes that can contribute to a person’s pancreatic cancer risk include:
  • Hereditary ovarian and breast cancer syndrome
  • Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome

EARLY DETECTION IS DIFFICULT, BUT IMPROVEMENTS ARE IN THE WORKS

Finding pancreatic cancer in its early stages is notoriously difficult. In the early stages, symptoms are hard to recognize and the cancer spreads easily and aggressively. But there is still hope on the horizon.
Researchers around the world are actively working to find blood tests that will be able to detect pancreatic cancer earlier, and innovative treatment options are on the horizon.

PATIENTS CAN BE CURED

In some cases, pancreatic cancer can be cured. If pancreatic cancer is caught early enough and it has not spread, surgery may be able to remove the malignant tumor and cure the disease.
When it comes to pancreatic cancer, knowledge is power. Understanding your family history, becoming familiar with the risk factors associated with the disease and knowing potential symptoms will help you remain vigilant about your health and give you the best chance at discovering and treating this cancer successfully.
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