People who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are likely to find their survival chances are very slim. This particular form of the disease has a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent. There are a number of factors that come into play that complicate treating this form of cancer as successfully as others. One of those factors happens to be the lack of a mechanism for identifying the cancer’s different subtypes. Doing so would enabled more highly targeted treatments, researchers say.

Researchers have been delving into the issue of pancreatic cancer subtypes for some time. A recent breakthrough may have provided a way for doctors to better tailor treatments for their patients who present with pancreatic cancer. The research identified three distinct subtypes of the disease. This, in turn, may pave the way for the creation of drugs that target the specific subtypes while helping identify biomarkers that indicate the different forms of the disease more readily for doctors in the field.

Many others forms of cancer have been classified into their different subtypes over the course of recent years. This classification has led to major advances in treatments. While it remains unclear how soon pancreatic cancer patients may benefit from the subtype discovery, the findings represent a major step forward.

Pancreatic cancer is estimated to affect more than 53,000 Americans each year. Some 41,000 die from the disease annually. With few symptoms at its onset, pancreatic cancer is often detected in more advanced, less treatable stages.

People who are concerned about pancreatic cancer should speak directly to their healthcare providers about assessing personal risks. The disease has a number of known risk factors, including obesity, tobacco use, diabetes, family history and chronic pancreatitis. While routine screening is not available for this disease, those at especially high risk may find some screening procedures available to them. Early detection can make a difference in outcomes.