The first of November marks the start of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) is urging the nation to demand better for patients by learning the risk factors and symptoms of a disease that is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
Pancreatic cancer is the only major cancer where survival rates are in the single digits – just 9 percent of people with the disease survive longer than five years. This year, more than 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease. That’s more than 145 people who will hear the news every single day.
There is no screening test or early detection methods for pancreatic cancer. Most patients are diagnosed when the disease has spread outside of the pancreas and surgery is no longer an option. The lack of tools for early detection is part of what makes pancreatic cancer so deadly. However, the chances of survival increase tenfold if a patient is diagnosed in time for surgery.
“Education and awareness are crucial steps in combating the world’s toughest cancer,” said Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, president and CEO of PanCAN. “Better progress for pancreatic cancer starts with disease education, which results in earlier detection and more treatment options.”
Research studies have identified several risk factors that may increase the likelihood that someone will develop pancreatic cancer, including family history of the disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, smoking, obesity, race, age and diet.
Common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include abdominal or mid-back pain, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool and new-onset diabetes. These symptoms are often vague and are generally attributed to other less serious and more common conditions.