Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. With your help and donations, Padres Pedal the Cause hopes to help change the future of pancreatic cancer. Raising awareness for this disease increases knowledge of the risk factors, symptoms, and treatments for pancreatic cancer, as well as encouraging people to help fund vital research.
Pancreatic cancer accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers in the United States, and about 7% of cancer deaths. Approximately 53,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and sadly, almost 42,000 people will die from the disease. Pancreatic cancer is more common among those who use tobacco, experience heavy exposure to certain chemicals, have diabetes, or are overweight. Additionally, almost all patients are over 45, and around two-thirds are 65 years or older. Men are at a slightly high risk to develop pancreatic cancer, as is anyone with a family history of this or other cancers.
Pancreatic cancer can form in two different types of cells present in the pancreas – exocrine cells and endocrine cells. Exocrine cells form the majority of the pancreas and are responsible for creating pancreatic enzymes, which are released into the intestines to help you digest food. Endocrine cells comprise a much smaller percentage of cells in the pancreas, but they make vital hormones like insulin and glucagon, which help control blood sugar levels. Each type of cell forms a different type of cancer, and each has different treatments and different outcomes.
Exocrine cancers are the most common form of pancreatic cancer, while pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), are significantly less common, comprising less than 5% of pancreatic cancers. However, the outlook for the less common pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors is generally better than that of pancreatic exocrine cancers. That means that the majority of patients with pancreatic cancer have a tough road ahead of them.
By the time most pancreatic cancers cause symptoms, the cancer has often spread outside the pancreas. For this reason, it is important to take these symptoms seriously and seek medical attention right away. However, be aware that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so you should see your doctor no matter what if any of these signs arise.
Some symptoms that may indicate pancreatic cancer:
- Belly or back pain
- Weight loss or poor appetite
- Nausea, vomiting, and pain after eating
- Blood clots
- Liver or gall bladder enlargement
- Fatty tissue abnormalities
- Low blood sugar
- Stomach ulcers
- Rash with swelling and blisters
If you experience any symptoms that may indicate pancreatic cancer, your doctor will do additional tests and exams to ascertain the cause. They will ask about your medical history, the risk factors stated above, and your family history. Be sure you’ve spoken with your family about any family history of pancreatic cancer. As with all cancers, early detection is key. If diagnosed, pancreatic cancer is treated with surgery, ablation/embolization, radiation, chemotherapy and other drugs. In general, those treated with surgery survive longer.
Pancreatic cancer awareness helps save lives, and Padres Pedal the Cause works to build awareness and raise funds for vital research. a portion of the research projects funded by Padres Pedal the Cause have studied pancreatic cancer, and with your help, we can continue to fund life-saving research.