What you need to know NOW about pancreatic cancer
A recent report predicts pancreatic cancer will leap from fourth to second place behind lung cancer as a leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. by 2020. With a five-year survival rate of just 6 percent, the disease is projected to kill more than 88,000 people in 2030, compared with 37,000 in 2012, according to the study from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Health experts say most people are very familiar with lung, breast and colon cancers but less aware of pancreatic cancer. Advances in treatments and survival rates for the most common cancers are helping to reduce the number of deaths from these illnesses. But for pancreatic cancer, early detection often isn’t possible and effective treatment options are limited, pushing the illness to the top of the mortality list.
“As early detection and treatments of the main cancers continually improve, spotting and treating pancreatic cancer remains difficult,” said Dr. Ajay V. Maker, a surgical oncologist at Advocate Health Care.
But Dr. Maker says new research may offer some hope.
“We’ve come a long way in identifying precursors to the cancer and the progression from pre-cancer to cancer,” Maker said. “Some of the main gene mutations have been identified. The challenge for the future is to translate these discoveries into novel treatments.”
Medical experts say that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still the best weapon against this silent killer. Tony Hampton, MD, of the Advocate Medical Group, says knowing your risk factors is also vital.
“Smoking, diabetes, family history and obesity are some of the most likely causes of pancreatic cancer,” Hampton said. “While we obviously have no control over our family history, we can control our choices and develop healthier habits.”
Hampton said a lifestyle marked by regular exercise, avoiding smoking and eating a diet rich in vegetables and fiber will go a long way to prevent pancreatic cancer and a host of other life-threatening illnesses.
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