Pancreatic cancer accounts for almost three percent of all cancers and is considered deadly due to its low survival rate. The disease at its early stages rarely shows any symptoms, and there are no specific screening tools to identify pancreatic cancer. Even after undergoing surgery, 30% of pancreatic cancer still goes undetected, leaving a possibility for the cancer to recur five years after surgery.
Here’s information about the rising rates of pancreatic cancer:
- Pancreatic cancer was the fourth leading cause of cancer mortality in the U.S.
- Currently, pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths, and even with the rising survival rates, it’s expected to become the second leading cause.
- The incidence of pancreatic cancer has risen by approximately 0.5% each year for more than a decade. This is according to the National Cancer Institute.
- The rise in mortality rank of pancreatic cancer can be partly explained by the advances in treating other cancer types particularly prostate, breast and colon cancer. Immunotherapy has still not worked for pancreatic and liver cancer.
- Over three-quarters of new pancreatic cancer patients are aged between 55 and 84 years old, meaning that the aging population is the main contributor.
- Smoking is the most significant contributor to the development of pancreatic cancer. Even though smoking rates have dropped in the U.S., it will be 30 to 40 years before we experience a proportionate drop in the rates of pancreatic cancer.
- The increase in type 2 diabetes and obesity have contributed to the rise in pancreatic cancer. According to Robert A. Wolf, MD, obesity has overtaken smoking as the primary cause of the increase in pancreatic cancer.
- Pancreatic tumors metastasize quickly unlike many other cancers which can be cured if detected early. Liquid biopsies and precision medicines are hot areas of oncology, but pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat effectively.
- Some doctors believe that patients will be helped by precision medicine therapies, especially the 10% who have hereditary pancreatic cancer. The current blood tests cannot specify though.
- Prevention can combat the rising rates of pancreatic cancer. According to some doctors, 30% of pancreatic cancer can be prevented by better diets, more exercise, no smoking and cutting back on obesity.