Top Five Things to Know About Pancreatic Cancer

Nov 5 • 2014
Top Five Things to Know About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed today, but there are still no definitive factors that have been labeled as being a cause of this disease. In honor of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, here are the five most important things you should know.

  1. Symptoms are so vague that it is often considered the silent killer. In the early stages there may not be any at all, making early detection difficult. Potential symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, pain in the upper abdomen or back, vomiting, weakness, jaundice, and fatigue. Unfortunately these can all indicate a variety of medical problems, making diagnosing it even harder.
  2. There is more than one kind of pancreatic cancer. The most common type is called an adenocarcinoma tumor, which spreads very quickly. The more rare form is a neuroendocrine tumor. This grows more slowly.
  3. While the exact cause is not known, there are several risk factors associated with this type of cancer. The older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed. Men have it slightly more often than women, and African Americans are more likely to get this type of cancer than Caucasians. Smoking, diet, obesity, lack of exercise, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, stomach problems, and family history are some of the other factors.
  4. Because there are no definitive causes known at this time, there is no surefire way to prevent getting pancreatic cancer. While it is recommended to avoid smoking, maintain a healthy weight, eat a well-rounded diet, and exercise, these steps do not guarantee prevention.
  5. Treatment options for this disease are currently limited. They include surgical removal of the tumor (which is not always possible), chemotherapy, or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. However, research into treatment options is ongoing.