Pancreatic Cancer: One of the Nation's Toughest Cancers to Fight

PancreaticIn the war against cancer, one opponent has proven especially difficult to vanquish. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early, which makes survival much less likely. Doctors are working hard to learn more about this malignancy—and how to stop it.

Anatomy of a Deadly Disease
Your pancreas, located behind your stomach, produces both digestive enzymes and the hormone insulin. About one in 63 men and one in 65 women will develop pancreatic cancer in his or her lifetime. In contrast, breast cancer affects about one in eight women and one in nine men will get prostate cancer.

Pancreatic cancer ranks third on the list of cancer killers. Only about 8.5 percent of patients survive five years after diagnosis. Largely, doctors say, this is because pancreatic cancer has no early symptoms. Signs include:

  • Yellowish skin and eyes
  • Pain in your upper or middle belly or back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite

But, these may not appear until after the disease has progressed and spread. This makes treatment more difficult.

Take Steps to Stay Cancer-Free
Doctors don’t understand exactly why some people develop pancreatic cancer and others don’t. But they have found some factors that increase risk. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pancreatitis, a long-term inflammation of the pancreas
  • Diabetes

You can help lower your risk for pancreatic cancer by not smoking, losing weight if you need to, and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Pancreatic Cancer Screening Study
WCHN is recruiting participants with certain pancreatic cancer risk factors through a clinical trial. Watch a video about the study and learn more here.