An estimated 53,000 Americans will face a positive diagnosis of pancreatic cancer this year. About 41,000 will die from the disease. With a 5-year survival rate that is less than 10 percent, this form of cancer is among the deadliest.

While treatments for pancreatic cancer are slowly progressing as are screening procedures, the first line of defense against this disease involves understanding personal risk factors. Knowing the signs of the disease can also prove tremendously helpful for gaining an early diagnosis should the disease present.

There are a number of factors that put some people at higher risk for the development of pancreatic cancer. Tobacco use, obesity, workplace chemical exposure, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and age, among other factors, can all increase risks.

Signs and symptoms of the disease to be mindful of include:

  • Jaundice – A yellowing of the skin, eyes and urine that is associated with increased levels of bilirubin in the blood could indicate pancreatic cancer. Jaundice is associated with a variety of other conditions, as well.
  • Diabetes – This condition can be an early warning sign for pancreatic cancer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all diabetics will develop the disease.
  • Pain – Abdominal and back pain may be an indicator. When tumors grow in the pancreas they can press on nearby organs. The pain tends to spread to the back when people lie down. It may also get worse after eating.
  • Weight loss – A rapid drop in weight can signal a number of conditions, pancreatic cancer is one of them.
  • Digestive problems – Pancreatic cancer may interfere with normal digestion. This can result in vomiting, nausea and stools that appear greasy.

People who are at risk for the development of pancreatic cancer are urged to discuss this condition with their healthcare providers. Should the symptoms of pancreatic cancer be present, it’s a good idea to have a doctor investigate their source more thoroughly. The symptoms may be associated with a host of other conditions, as well.