WHAT IS PANCREATIC CANCER?
Pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells within the pancreas grow out of control and form a tumor. The pancreas is a gland in the abdomen that lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine, with two main functions: digestion and blood sugar regulation.
More than 95 percent of pancreatic cancers are classified as exocrine tumors. These tumors start in the exocrine cells that make pancreatic enzymes that help in digestion. Within this category, the vast majority of tumors are adenocarcinomas.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pancreatic NETs or PNETs) account for less than 5 percent of all pancreatic tumors. They may be benign or malignant and tend to grow slower than exocrine tumors.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Pancreatic cancer often doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms in the early stages, which can make it hard to diagnose early. Symptoms can also be vague and may come and go, while the severity can also vary for each person. You may not have any or all of these symptoms.
It’s important to remember that symptoms can be caused by more common things. They can also be caused by conditions such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
- Abdominal and mid-back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Change in stool
- New-onset diabetes
- Digestive problems
- Loss of appetite
- Mood Change
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?
The cause of the majority of pancreatic cancer cases is unknown, but research studies have identified the following risk factors that may increase the likelihood that someone will develop pancreatic cancer.
- Inherited genetic mutations
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
- Family history of other cancers
- Pancreatitis (chronic and hereditary)
- Race (ethnicity)
PANCREATIC CANCER STATISTICS
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate among all major cancers.
In nearly every country, pancreatic cancer is the only major cancer with a single-digit five-year survival rate (2-9 percent). Source
Every day, more than 1,257 people worldwide will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and an estimated 1,184 will die from the disease. Source 1
It is estimated that in 2025, 557,688 new cases will be diagnosed globally. Source
HOW IS PANCREATIC CANCER TREATED?
Treatment for pancreatic cancer is dependent on how advanced the cancer is and a patient’s overall health. If possible, surgeons will remove the cancer; the most common operation is the Whipple procedure (surgery to remove all or part of the pancreas and other organs). Surgery is usually followed up with chemotherapy.
For metastatic pancreatic cancer (spread to other parts of the body) treatment may include chemotherapy and occasionally radiotherapy too. A patient may also be offered treatment to relieve symptoms and the opportunity to join a clinical trial.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE CONCERNED?
All of the symptoms and risk factors featured on this website can have multiple other causes and the symptoms you are experiencing may well be a sign of something else.
BUT if you’ve regularly been experiencing one or more of the symptoms mentioned on this website that are persistent, worsening, and not normal for you, do not ignore them, speak to your healthcare provider as soon as you can, and reference pancreatic cancer. If a friend or member of your family is having any of these symptoms, tell them to do the same.
If pancreatic cancer is found early, it is more treatable so visiting your doctor could save your life!
You can also find information on pancreatic cancer and support groups in your area, by contacting coalition members near you.