Did you know that pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common cancer in America?
The pancreas is located behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The main function of the pancreas is to store and use energy from the foods we eat. It achieves this by producing hormones to control blood sugar levels and enzymes to help our body break down food.
However, when abnormal cells begin to grow within the pancreas, the functionality minimizes and a tumor may begin to grow. In turn, this is what leads to pancreatic cancer.
If you’re looking to learn the basic facts about pancreatic cancer, you’ve come to the right place. We’re outlining ten facts that will help to clear your understanding of pancreatic cancer.
1. Begins with Abnormal Cells in the Pancreas
The pancreas is a gland that is roughly six inches long and shaped like a sideways cone. It’s found in the abdomen near the stomach and the intestines.
Pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells develop within the pancreas and grow out of control. Once the cells develop further, the result is often a tumor.
Unfortunately, this type of cancer is difficult to detect. Because of this fact, most diagnoses take place when the cancer is at a later stage.
2. Signs and Symptoms
The early stages of pancreatic cancer do not often produce symptoms. Typically, these symptoms begin to arise once the cancer has developed to a more aggressive stage.
However, once the symptoms begin to arise they come in the form of:
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Light in color stools and dark urine
- Pain in the abdomen and back
- Loss of appetite and sudden weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Digestive issues
If you feel that you may be experiencing the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. This is especially the case for anyone with a family history of pancreatic cancer.
3. Low Survival Rate
While survival for cancers has increased over the years, pancreatic cancer is the unfortunate exception to this pattern.
Once the disease has progressed, the diagnosis doesn’t usually predict good news. In fact, pancreatic cancer is responsible for the deaths of more than 331,000 patients each year.
In terms of living with the disease, the overall five-year survival rate is approximately 6 percent. Again, this is largely due to the fact that the cancer is not often detected until it has reached a later stage.
4. Detected Through Physical Exams
Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer can be very hard to find and diagnose early. This is another reason that this form of cancer has such a low survival rate.
It is often detected through physical exams at first. From here, image testing such as CT scans will be used and MRI.
Once the cancer develops, the average life expectancy is between four and six months for patients. Of course, this may have the possibility of being prolonged with the treatment options.
5. Smoking and Obesity Increase Risk
As compared to other forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer affects both men and women equally.
However, there are certain triggers that can increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. For example, those who smoke or struggle with obesity have a greater risk.
Refraining from smoking, only moderately drinking and engaging in regular exercise will help to decrease one’s chances of pancreatic cancer.
Of course, just because you possess these risk factors, doesn’t mean that you will develop pancreatic cancer in your lifetime.
6. Risk Increases with Age
Did you know that over 68 percent of pancreatic cancers were diagnosed in patients over the age of 65?
While it can affect patients of all ages, it does target the aging population.
Because it targets the elderly population, the patients are less likely to seek treatment. In turn, this is a factor in why pancreatic cancer has such a low survival rate as compared to other forms of cancer.
7. Lowest Funded Cancer
In forty years, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer has remained exceptionally low. As the survival rate for other forms of cancer continues to increase, pancreatic cancer has yet to follow the same pattern.
Why is this happening, you ask?
Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is one of the least funded cancers in the world. Although it’s also one of the most common cancers, it receives very little attention from the government. In fact, only 2 percent of overall cancer research funding is provided to this type of cancer.
8. More Common in Developed Countries
According to global studies, pancreatic cancer is more common in developed countries.
In fact, 55 percent of pancreatic cancer cases occur in developed countries. The top three countries with the hates rates of pancreatic cancer are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Armenia.
In terms of continents, North America and Europe report the highest instances of pancreatic cancer and Asia and Africa report the lowest instances.
9. Multiple Treatment Options
If detected early enough, there are several different treatment options available.
While these are not likely to rid of the cancer altogether, it can help to prolong the survival. Surgery, radiation therapy, clinical trials or chemotherapy may be used or combined with one another.
Patients can also consider assisted living to make living with the disease more bearable.
10. Pancreatic Specialists Can Help
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is never easy.
But, rest assured that there are pancreatic specialists that spend the duration of their careers trying to better understand and treat this disease.
Making the choice to see a pancreatic specialist often helps to improve the outcome of the situation. Remember, these specialists only deal with this type of cancer and see these patients every single day.
Of course, it is important to note that finding a pancreatic specialist may require travel to other states or even countries.
Understanding Pancreatic Cancer
If you’re looking to gain a better understanding of pancreatic cancer, it’s best to acquaint yourself with the facts. From understanding the symptoms and diagnosis to the risk factors and treatment options, these facts will help you to understand the disease more.
If you feel that you may be experiencing some of these symptoms, be sure to schedule a visit with your doctor as soon as possible.
Interested in learning more about varying health and disease-related topics? If so, be sure to visit our blog. These topics are never easy, but it’s always best to do your search and gain a solid understanding of the disease.