Pancreatic Cancer

Early detection is the best protection

Knowledge is power when it comes to coping with a cancer diagnosis, and the most important thing for you to know is that early detection is crucial for survival.  The experts at Parkview Cancer Institute are here to answer your questions and connect you with our pancreatic cancer experts. 

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas, which is an organ in your abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of your stomach.  Your pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. 

Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early.  Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it is a leading cause of cancer death.  

The American Cancer Society estimates 46,420 new diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2014 that will result in 39,590 deaths. Your lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is 1 in 78.  The rate of developing pancreatic cancer has slowly been increasing over the past 10 years.

What causes pancreatic cancer?

The risk factors of developing pancreatic cancer include:

  • Age:  The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases as we age.  Almost all patients are older than 45. The average age at diagnosis is 71.
  • Gender:  Men are 30 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer then women.
  • Race:  African-Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than Caucasians.
  • Cigarette smoking: The risk of developing pancreatic cancer is at least twice as high among smokers as non-smokers.  Quitting smoking helps lower risk.  Ten years after quitting, former smokers have the same risk as those who have never smoked.
  • Obesity and physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Occupational exposure to pesticides, dyes and chemicals used in metal refining
  • Genetic Syndromes
  • Heavy alcohol intake
  • Diet: Some studies linked pancreatic cancer with diets high in fat or diets that include red meat, pork and processed meats

What are the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Cancer of the pancreas does not often cause symptoms in the early stages, but as the cancer grows larger, some of the common symptoms appear and include:

  • Dark urine, pale stools, and yellow skin and eyes from jaundice
  • Pain in the upper part of your abdomen
  • Pain in the middle part of your back that does not go away with changes in position
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stools that float in the toilet
  • Weakness or feeling very tired
  • Loss of appetite or feeling of fullness
  • Unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more

How is pancreatic cancer treated?

Treatment for pancreatic cancer is determined based on the location of the tumor in your pancreas, whether the disease has spread, and your age and general health.  Some of the treatment options include: