As one of the most deadly forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer has a dismal survival rate. But there are many reasons why you should be aware of this disease and take action to prevent it. There are some things you need to know.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the U.S., and it is the fifth leading cause of cancer death. It is a very hard disease to detect early because there are no symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage.
It can be hard to detect, but you can help spread awareness by sharing this article with others, or by donating to support our mission at Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN).
Ways it Can Spread
There are many ways to spread awareness about pancreatic cancer, including:
- Using the hashtag #SpreadPancreaticCancer on social media.
- Wearing a pin or bracelet with the slogan “I (heart) PC” or “Pancreatic Cancer Awareness.”
- Talking to your friends and family about pancreatic cancer, or volunteering with a local organization such as Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
It is a complex disease that develops over many years. It often begins with the growth of abnormal cells in the pancreas where they form a tumor. The cancerous tumors can grow and spread to other parts of the body, including your liver, lungs, and brain.
The risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
- Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
- Obesity — especially belly fat
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
The good news is that you can take steps to reduce your risk factors by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking if you currently smoke.
While the symptoms can be vague, there are some that you should be aware of:
- Weight loss — weight loss can be one of the first signs of pancreatic cancer, but it is typically a gradual process and may not seem unusual to those who are overweight or obese.
- Abdominal pain and/or back pain — abdominal pain is often associated with something more serious than pancreatic cancer (i.e., gallstones), but if your doctor confirms that your symptoms are caused by pancreatic cancer, they will likely recommend that you see a specialist ASAP (as soon as possible).
- Back pain is usually caused by the tumor pressing against nearby nerves in the spine; like abdominal pain, this symptom should also prompt further investigation by your physician or primary care provider if left untreated for too long.
- Jaundice — jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up in the bloodstream due to liver damage caused by malignant tumors within it; jaundiced skin appears yellowish or orange because bilirubin gives blood its color.
- Nausea & Vomiting — nausea is characterized by feelings of discomfort when you think about eating anything; vomiting occurs when food leaves your stomach too quickly due to increased acidity levels.
Most Important Thing
The most important thing you can do for your health, and the health of your loved ones, is to get tested. If you have any of the following risk factors:
- A family history of pancreatic cancer.
- A personal history of pancreatitis or gallstones.
- Are over 40 years old.
- You’re overweight or have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2 (or 27 kg/m2 if Asian).
If you know someone who has suffered from pancreatic cancer, please take a moment to share how they were treated and what their experience was like. By sharing your stories we can help educate people about the signs of this deadly disease, as well as what treatments are available.
The more people know about pancreatic cancer, the more likely we are to find a cure. If we can find a cure for this disease, then you could save your own life or that of someone you love.
by Sheena Robertson
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