The pancreas is a gland located between the stomach and spine. Its main function is to produce digestive juices that can break down food, and to make hormones that help us control our blood sugar levels.
Most pancreatic cancers are not diagnosed at an early stage. Symptoms are hard to spot at its outset and can easily be confused with those associated with other disorders and diseases. As a result, the cancer has often spread before treatment can be rendered. For this reason, it is one of the deadliest of cancers with a single-digit five-year survival rate.
What are the risks factors that may result in pancreatic cancer? Age is a central factor. Around 2/3 of those diagnosed are 65 years of age or older. The disease is more common in African American communities, and males tend to be diagnosed more than females. Cigarette smoking doubles the risk. Patients who suffer from chronic pancreatitis, obesity, diabetes and maintain a diet rich in fried food, meats and high cholesterol content are also at risk. Hereditary factors may also play a role.
Common symptoms include a loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, discomfort in the abdomen and back, light-colored stools and dark urine, jaundice and extreme fatigue.
As the pancreas is deeply embedded within the body, diagnosis can be difficult. Doctors may call upon physical examinations, blood tests, biopsy and a variety of imaging technologies – including MRI, ultrasound, PET, and CT scans – to do so. Depending upon the staging of the pancreatic cancer, they might be able to remove the tumor through surgery.
Researchers continue in their efforts to uncover more efficient means of detecting and treating the disease.
If you experience any of the symptoms related to pancreatic cancer, or have questions regarding the disease, please consult your doctor.
The Watson Clinic Cancer & Research Center specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in all its forms, including pancreatic cancer. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 863-680-7780 or visit our location page.