Advances in screening and treatment have significantly lowered the mortality rates of many cancers, but one type of cancer that remains markedly deadly is pancreatic cancer.
As a point of comparison, in 1975 breast cancer patients had a 75.2 percent survival rate after five years. By 2009, breast cancer patients in the U.S. had a 91.3 percent survival rate.
In 1975, pancreatic cancer patients had a 3 percent survival rate after five years and in 2009, they had an 8.5 percent survival rate. This low chance of survival makes pancreatic cancer the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. It’s expected to become the second cause of cancer-related death around 2020.
However, there is hope. The five-year survival has increased for the third consecutive year.
Why is pancreatic cancer so deadly?
Of the estimated 53,670 Americans who will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, many will be advanced-stage cancer. And with limited effective treatment options, most will not survive.
The location of the pancreas – deep within the middle of the abdomen – hinders early detection. When the cancer spreads, it doesn’t have to go far to reach many crucial systems.
Pancreatic cancer can be identified and diagnosed via screenings like endoscopic ultrasound and MRI, but in many cases, when patients experience symptoms – such as abdominal or back pain, weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of appetite, or even diabetes – the cancer has already spread.
Because survival rates depend upon the stage at which cancer is diagnosed and later stages are associated with lower survival rates, the clandestine nature of pancreatic cancer makes it more deadly.
Here’s what you can do
In 2012, the International Cancer of the Pancreas Screening (CAPS) Consortium released guidelines that recommend against screening for the general population but DO recommend screening with endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) for the following high-risk groups:
- People with two or more blood relatives (and at least one first-degree relative) with pancreatic cancer
- Carriers of p16, PALB2, or BRCA2 mutations who have a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer
- All individuals with Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- Individuals with Lynch syndrome and a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer
If you fall in one of the above groups, an expert in gastroenterology can conduct screenings for you and answer any questions you have about looking out for symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
To learn more about pancreatic cancer or schedule a screening, reach out to the experts at The Endoscopy Center Gastroenterology Associates of Pensacola. Call (850)-474-8988 to learn more or check out www.endo-world.com.