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Understanding Pancreatic Cancer: What You Need to Know

When I chose to write about pancreatic cancer, I wanted to educate myself and others about this type of cancer. I was unaware that November was Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and World Pancreatic Cancer Day is the third Thursday of November. This year, 2023, Pancreatic Awareness Day is on November 16th. It is essential to create awareness about this devastating disease. Educating readers about pancreatic cancer and providing insight is the key to understanding.

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in this country, with an average survival rate between 5% to 9%. Pancreatic cancer symptoms often go unnoticed, making it discovered in the later stages. There are different types of pancreatic cancer, but the most common type is adenocarcinoma, which develops from the exocrine cells of the pancreas. Another type of pancreatic cancer is neuroendocrine tumors, which originate from the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas.

There are risk factors that can increase your chances of getting pancreatic cancer, which include smoking, being overweight, having diabetes, and chronic pancreatitis. It can also be hereditary.

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer often go unnoticed due to the location of the pancreas near other organs. Common signs of pancreatic cancer include loss of appetite, jaundice, abdominal pain, bloating, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue. It is essential to seek medical attention if you develop any of these symptoms, especially if they persist. Pancreatic cancers can sometimes cause the liver or gallbladder to swell, which the doctor might be able to feel during the exam. Your doctor can also check your skin and the whites of your eyes for jaundice (yellowing).

Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed through imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI scans, or endoscopic ultrasounds, and through blood tests to check for tumor markers and other cancer-related substances. Tests for diagnosing pancreatic cancer do not always detect small lesions, pre-cancers, or early-stage cancers.

Treatment options for pancreatic cancer are limited, and the type of treatment recommended depends on the stage of cancer the individual is in. Surgery can be performed to remove the tumor, but this is only an option for a small percentage of patients. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can help shrink the tumor and improve survival rates, but they have several side effects.

Creating awareness about pancreatic cancer is vital to educate people about the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options available. Understanding the disease and seeking early diagnosis can improve patients’ chances of survival and quality of life. Let’s create awareness about pancreatic cancer this November and beyond. Remember, early detection saves lives.


American Association of Cancer Research:

Boston Scientific:

American Cancer Society:

The National Pancreas Foundation: