Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of this disease known to man. While only an estimated 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with this disease annually, an estimated 40,000 die from it each year. With a five-year survival rate that is less than 6 percent, finding better detection and treatment methods is a major priority for researchers. People who are at risk for this disease can potentially help themselves by knowing the warning signs of the disease.
One of the reasons why pancreatic cancer is so deadly is that it presents with few to no symptoms in the earliest phases. Symptoms, if they do appear, are likely to include such concerns as:
• Back pain
• Low abdominal pain
• Unexplained weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Changes in stools
When these symptoms are combined with risk factors for the disease, it is time to speak with a healthcare provider. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
• Tobacco use
• Chemical exposure in the workplace
• Age in that most patients diagnosed are 45 or older with about two-thirds diagnosed at age 65 or older
• Gender in that men are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women
• A family history of pancreatic cancer may also be cause for concern
• Race may also play a role with African Americans more likely to develop this disease than whites
• Diabetes is also commonly linked to this condition
People who are concerned about pancreatic cancer should discuss the condition and their personal risk factors with their healthcare providers. While routine early screening examinations are not widely available for this disease as they are in other forms of cancer, there are tools doctors can use when risks are especially high. As it is with many other forms of cancer, early detection and treatment can made a major difference in outcomes.