Pancreatic Cancer Awareness
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month: November
Quick Facts about Pancreatic Cancer
- It's the most lethal cancer there is. Overall survival rate is 8%.
- About 55,440 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and about 44,330 people will die of pancreatic cancer.
- Difficult to find early until cancer has spread to other organs.
- No cure, unless the cancer is surgically removed in its earliest stages.
- Too little federal funding. Pancreatic cancer research constitutes only 2% of the National Cancer Institute's budget.
American Cancer Society (n.d.). Key statistics for pancreatic cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/about/key-statistics.html.
Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research (n.d.). Pancreatic cancer facts. Retrieved from http://pancreatic.org/pancreatic-cancer/pancreatic-cancer-facts/.
Lustgarten Foundation: Pancreatic Cancer Research (n.d.). About pancreatic cancer. Retrieved from https://www.lustgarten.org/patient-journey/what-is-pancreatic-cancer/.
Facts and Myths about Pancreatic Cancer
Myth: All pancreatic cancers are fatal.
This is not the case. Much progress has been made in multiple areas of treatment including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and combinations of these therapies. Some patients can achieve long-term remission.
Myth: All pancreas cancers are the same.
There are actually two types of pancreatic cancer and each is made up of a different type of abnormal cell. In up to 95% of cases, pancreatic cancer arises from the cells that line the pancreas ducts, called adenocarcinoma. These cells are part of the exocrine portion of the pancreas and are important in producing enzymes that help in digestion.
Another, much more rare form, called neuroendocrine tumors, begins in other cells of the pancreas itself, the endocrine pancreas, where the cells that produce insulin and other hormones are located. These cells are called Islets of Langerhans and cancers that begin in these cells are called islet cell cancers. These make up only 5% of pancreatic cancers.
Myth: Pancreatic cancer screening tests are available and common.
Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer screening tests are not commonly done. In fact, researchers have not yet developed an easy and accurate way to screen for pancreatic cancer. For example, there is no blood test or specific imaging procedure tat can reliably detect this cancer. Only a biopsy can determine if those tumors are cancerous.
Surgery makes pancreatic cancer more likely to spread.