November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. This campaign happens every November to educate people about the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, recently surpassing breast cancer.
It is expected to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in the US by the year 2020, surpassing colorectal cancer, according to pancreatic.org.
Pancreatic Cancer cannot be pinned to one cause, and doctors can’t explain why some people get it and some don’t. There are, however, some risk factors that may cause a development of the disease. These include:
Smoking Tobacco – The most important risk factor, as heavy smokers are most at risk.
Diabetes – People with Type II Diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, have a higher rate than people without it to develop pancreatic cancer.
Untreated Pancreatitis – As pancreatitis goes untreated, the inflammation of the pancreas may increase the risk of getting cancer.
Obesity – People who are overweight have a slightly higher chance of developing pancreatic cancer.
Family History – African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews have a higher rate of this disease compared to people of Asian, Hispanic, or Caucasian descent.
Pancreatic Cancer is very dangerous because of its location in the abdomen. The malignant tumor can grow or invade organs next to the pancreas, while cancer cells can break off the tumor, forming new tumors or cause an abnormal buildup of fluid.
Another issue with Pancreatic Cancer is that early stages of the disease don’t cause symptoms. But as it grows larger these symptoms may pop up:
• Dark urine, pale stools, and yellow skin and eyes from jaundice
• Pain in the upper part of your belly
• Pain in the middle part of your back that doesn’t go away when you shift your position
• Nausea and vomiting
• Stools that float in the toilet
• Weakness or Tired Feeling
• Loss of Appetite/Feeling Full
• Weight Loss Without Exercise/Diet Reasons
Currently, Pancreatic Cancer can only be cured when it’s found in the early stages, aka before it spreads, and only if the surgery can completely remove the tumor. If it is found too late or the tumor cannot be surgically removed, there are treatments that can help someone live longer and feel better.
Treatment options include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Alternative treatment and clinical trials are also an option.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over nearly 40 years and has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. 74% of all patients die within the first year of diagnosis, due to their being no tools for early detection.
Before starting treatment, you may want a second opinion about your diagnosis.
During the month of November, there are many ways to show your support. Some of those ways are “shopping purple” by purchasing our awareness pins or ribbons, wearing anything purple, or light up your home or business with purple lights.
For more information on how to support Pancreatic Awareness Month, go to pancreatic.org/November/