Pancreatic cancer is quickly making its way to the top of the list of most deadly cancers and, unfortunately, most diagnosis occur late in life. Nearly 50,000 Americans receive a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer each year – it’s the same cancer that took the lives of Steve Jobs, Luciano Pavarotti and Patrick Swayze. Pancreatic cancer is a form of cancer where a malignancy arises, either from the pancreas duct or pancreatic cells. By keeping an eye out for these cysts, doctors are able to monitor and increase early detection of pancreatic cancer.
Although the rate of pancreatic cancer is not as common as breast, lung or prostate, it is much deadlier than many other cancers. As it stands, pancreatic cancer is currently the fourth leading cause of death by cancer. Both men and women are affected by pancreatic cancer, and it is most commonly diagnosed in patients who are in their 60s or 70s. Smoking and family history, along with chronic pancreatitis, are all risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
In the early stages pancreatic cancer shows minimal signs and symptoms; if symptoms are present, they can be quite vague, which makes it more difficult to diagnose. Some signs include jaundice, abdominal pain, back pain and unexplained weight loss.
Unfortunately, unlike the screening for breast cancer, there is no simple screening for pancreatic cancer. Those with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer, especially a close relative, genetic syndromes or who have cysts are considered high risk and thus receive more intense screening.
Many patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while getting tested for something else. Once cysts are found, the cancer is then monitored for any progression and the patient can begin early treatment. Imaging technology is used to diagnose pancreatic cancer.
The best thing to do to lower your risk of pancreatic cancer is know your risks, live a healthy lifestyle, reduce your risk of pancreatitis, and don’t cause more damage by smoking or drinking if you do have pancreatitis.