Pancreatic Cancer FactsNovember 5, 2019
November is Pancreatic Awareness Month. Here are some facts about this devastating disease:
- Last year, an estimated 56,770 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S., and more than 45,750 were estimated to die from the disease.
- Pancreatic cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States surpassing breast cancer. It is expected to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in the US by the year 2020, surpassing colorectal cancer.
- Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially for more than 40 years.
- Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. For all stages combined, 91% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only 9% will survive more than five years.
- Few risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer are defined. The risk for cigarette smokers is twice that for those who have never smoked. Family history of pancreatic cancer, chronic pancreatitis, alcohol use, obesity and diabetes are risk factors. Individuals with Lynch syndrome and certain other genetic syndromes, as well as BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, are also at increased risk.
- Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague symptoms that could indicate many different conditions within the abdomen or gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include pain (usually abdominal or back pain), weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes.
- Treatment options for pancreatic cancer: Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are treatment options that extend survival or relieve symptoms, but seldom produce a cure. Surgical removal of the tumor is possible in less than 20% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer because detection is often in late stages and has spread beyond the pancreas. Adjuvant treatment with chemotherapy (and sometimes radiation) may lower the risk of recurrence. For advanced disease, chemotherapy (sometimes along with a targeted drug therapy) may lengthen survival. Clinical trials are testing several new agents for their ability to improve survival.
- Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death largely because there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when surgical removal of the tumor is still possible.
Talk to your Starling doctor about any risk factors or concerns.
*Source for statistics: American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts & Figures 2019