Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, yet it is one of the most difficult cancers to detect. Few people understand the symptoms and details surrounding pancreatic cancer so this month, as we honor the lives of those who suffered from pancreatic cancer, we seek to educate and raise awareness about this deadly disease.
What Is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer occurs when a benign tumor is located in the pancreas. Many people are more familiar with pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a small organ found behind the stomach that has two key roles. First, it creates enzymes that help digest food. Second, it creates insulin and glucagon that control blood sugar levels. The pancreas is vital in helping the body use and store the energy received from food. The majority of pancreatic cancer is an exocrine tumor which is formed from the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas.
Signs Of Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect and the symptoms do not parallel with early diagnosis. Still, it is important to understand the signs and contact a doctor for an appointment. These are indicators of exocrine pancreatic cancer:
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stools
- Belly or back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Enlarged liver
- Blood Clots
It’s important to note that most of these symptoms are also symptoms of other abnormalities and are not exclusive to pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, if these symptoms occur because of pancreatic cancer, it is likely that the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body.
Who Is At Risk?
The causes of pancreatic cancer are not known, but there are a few factors that may put you at risk. One of the highest risk factors is smoking cigarettes. The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater your risk of pancreatic cancer. Age plays a role in diagnosis as well. Risk for pancreatic cancer increases after the age of 45, though most people diagnosed are in their early 70s. Many doctors believe that risk increases for someone who has diabetes, as well as someone who has suffered from long-term pancreatitis. Obesity also increases the risk, especially in women who carry their weight on their stomach.
What Can You Do?
Manage the things you can control, like smoking, diet, and exercise. Talk to one of our doctors if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer and make an appointment if you have any questions or concerns. Our team at Concorde Gastroenterology is committed to raising awareness about pancreatic cancer and helping our patients stay healthy!