BALTIMORE, Md., (Ivanhoe Newswire) - The American Cancer Society estimates 45,000 people will be diagnosed with it in 2013, and it will kill more than 38,000. The rates of pancreatic cancer have slowly increased in the past ten years. The risk of developing it in your lifetime is about one in 78. Right now, researchers are working on ways to detect the killer before it forms.
"The number of people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year is the same number, almost the same number as the people who die," Anne Marie Lennon, M.D., Ph.D., at Johns Hopkins University, told Ivanhoe.
Chances of living five years after diagnosis are less than five percent, and most will die within the first year. That's because pancreatic cancer can be difficult to detect. Patients usually have no symptoms until the cancer's already spread. Now, researchers are focusing on early detection to try to stop it before it forms.
"We're really excited about this," said Dr. Lennon.
A recent study found up to 13 percent of patients who underwent an MRI had pancreatic cysts. Doctor Anne Marie Lennon says, they account for up to 20 percent of pancreatic cancers. Now, using endoscopic ultrasound, doctors get high-resolution images of the pancreas. If cysts are found, they are biopsied and the cyst fluid is analyzed to figure out if it's cancerous.
"So we have the potential to intervene and try and prevent up to 20% of people with pancreatic cancer developing it," explained Dr. Lennon.
Researchers are also working on a promising gene test that could predict if cysts have the potential to become cancerous. It's currently being studied in a large clinical trial across the country.
African Americans have a higher risk of getting pancreatic cancer than whites. The Mayo Clinic warns other top risk factors include obesity, diabetes, smoking, and a family history of pancreatic cancer.
BACKGROUND: Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas — an organ in the abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of the stomach. The pancreas secretes enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help regulate the metabolism of sugars. Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it's a leading cause of cancer death. Signs and symptoms may not appear until pancreatic cancer is quite advanced and surgical removal isn't possible. (Source:www.mayoclinic.com)
SYMPTOMS: Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer often don't occur until the disease is advanced. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include:
Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to your back
Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
RISK FACTORS: No one understands the underlying causes of pancreatic cancer, but certain risk factors have been identified, such as:
Diabetes: People with diabetes are not necessarily more likely to get pancreatic cancer but the two have been linked.
Smoking: Cigarette smoking is well known to increase the risk for pancreatic cancer. The more a person smokes, the higher the risk.
Diet: A diet high in fat and meat (especially smoked or processed meat) has been linked to pancreatic cancer in animal studies. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables decreased pancreatic cancer risk
TREATMENT: The best treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on how far it has spread, or its stage. The stages of pancreatic cancer are easy to understand. What is difficult is attempting to stage pancreatic cancer without resorting to major surgery. In practice, doctors choose pancreatic cancer treatments based upon imaging studies, surgical findings, and an individual's general state of wellbeing. (Source: www.webmed.com)
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