What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a large gland in the abdomen behind the stomach, about 6 inches in length.

A gland is a vital organ that produces chemicals and fluids that the body needs.

Other organs affected:

The pancreas is not the only organ that can be affected by pancreatic cancer. The liver, spleen, stomach, gallbladder, and large intestine can all be affected as well.

What are the risk factors?

A risk factor is anything that can increase your chances of cancer.

Genetics can increase the risk for pancreatic cancer, which is why it is important to check in with your doctor if pancreatic cancer has been passed down in your family.

There are also certain syndromes than can increase the risk. Some of these include:

  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
  • Melanoma-pancreatic cancer syndrome
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome

Below is a list of risk factors to be aware of:

  • Tobacco smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • High body mass index (BMI) or excess fat
  • Lack of exercise
  • Genetics
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Long-term diabetes
  • Periodontal disease
  • Family history of pancreatitis
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Contact with chemicals and heavy metals

Symptoms

Unfortunately, there are no early warning signs of pancreatic cancer, which is why it is important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms below. While having these symptoms does not always mean you have pancreatic cancer, it is good to be cautious to make sure you can detect it as soon as possible.

These symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Floating stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Indigestion
  • Pain the abdomen and back
  • Sometimes pancreatitis
  • Trouble controlling diabetes
  • New-onset diabetes

Diagnosis

Imaging tests are used in diagnosis and the follow-up treatment of cancer.

There are several different types of imagining tests to be familiar with:

  • X-rays use low-dose radiation to take one picture at a time.
  • Ultrasounds use high-energy sound waves to make pictures.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
    use x-rays to take pictures from many angles or cross-sections to create three- dimensional or real-looking images.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans use radio waves and strong magnets to make detailed pictures.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans use a radioactive drug called a tracer to find disease and take three- dimensional or real-looking pictures. A tracer is a substance put in your body to see how cancer is growing and where it is in the body. Cancer cells show up as bright spots on PET scans.

Statistics (VIA Cancer.net)

  • An estimated 60,430 adults (31,950 men and 28,480 men) in the US will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer accounts for 3% of all cancers and 7% of all cancer deaths
  • It is the 3rd leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in thee US
  • Since 2000, the death rate has slowly increased each year
  • The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The general 5-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is 10%.

Living with Pancreatic Cancer

Living with this cancer is not easy, and it’s important to stay on top of follow-up appointments and doctors visits. People do not seem to realize all the tests and treatments that affect a person’s life. Not only do they have to live with the fact they have pancreatic cancer, but it is mentally draining to constantly be in and out of the hospital all the time, especially when feeling sick.

Keep those in your thoughts and prayers who are dealing with pancreatic cancer, or any illness or disease. Having to stay on top of medical bills, a schedule for taking medicines, treatments, and regular doctors’ visits, is a lot to deal with. Cancer.org discusses the importance of eating right after diagnosis, and how patients typically meet with nutritionists to ensure they are keeping their bodies as healthy as possible.

Pancreatic cancer can cause depression, anxiety, and extreme fear. Cancer.org talks about the importance of having emotional support, maybe a family member, friend, or even a therapist, to talk to during the journey. Being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is scary, but having a good support system is important for your bad and good days.

Clinical Trials

In the fight against pancreatic cancer, clinical trials often provide the best treatment options, and they give patients early access to cutting-edge treatments that can lead to progress in research, improved treatment options and better outcomes.

Through clinical trials, doctors determine whether new treatments are safe and effective and work better than current treatments. Clinical trials also help us find new ways to prevent and detect cancer. And they help us improve the quality of life for people during and after treatment.

Find information about current clinical trials HERE

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