• Cancer

    5 things to know about pancreatic cancer

an older man and young boy looking at a cell phone together with a purple Pancreatic Cancer Awareness ribbon graphic

"It's not a particularly common cancer," says Mark Truty, M.D., a surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic. "The lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer for any given patient without any predisposing risk is only 1 to 3%."

According to the National Cancer Institute, pancreatic cancer accounts for 3.2% of all new cancer cases, but it causes nearly 8% of all cancer deaths. And the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just 10.8%.

Here are five things everyone should know about this deadly cancer:

  1. Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and causes nonspecific symptoms.

"For 50% of patients at the time of their diagnosis, we find that the cancer has spread outside the pancreas to other organs, meaning stage four metastatic pancreas cancer," says Dr. Truty.

This happens for two reasons. First, pancreatic cancer cells are particularly aggressive. They accumulate and form tumors and spread to nearby organs at a rapid pace. Second, pancreatic cancer rarely causes symptoms before it has spread beyond the pancreas. And when it does cause symptoms, they are nonspecific, such as abdominal pain, back pain, or weight loss, all of which are more likely to be caused by something other than pancreatic cancer.

Read the rest of the article on the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center blog.


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