Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths.

Pancreatic Cancer Specialists 

Men are twice as likely as women to develop pancreatic cancer. It tends to strike people over the age of 50 (85%). Unfortunately, there are no methods of detecting pancreatic cancer at an early stage. The condition usually progresses very rapidly; the average lifespan after diagnosis is 4-8 months. The five-year survival rate is less than 5%. Over 53,000 Americans were expected to be diagnosed in 2016 with pancreatic cancer, with as many as 41,000 of them expected to die of the disease

The most common form of pancreatic cancer, called adenocarcinoma, is a cancer of the exocrine system. There are not yet any official screening guidelines for pancreatic cancer, and testing is only recommended for people experiencing symptoms.

What are Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?

Unfortunately, Pancreatic cancer rarely causes symptoms until it has spread. Once it has spread, symptoms may include:

  • painless jaundice
  • weight loss
  • fatigue/weakness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea/loose stools
  • clay colored stools
  • dark urine
  • diabetes
  • mid-abdominal pain going to the back

What are Types of Pancreatic Cancer?

Cancer of the exocrine cells of the pancreas occurs much more frequently than cancer of the endocrine (or islet) cells of the pancreas. In fact, about 95% of all pancreatic cancers are within the exocrine system. The report most common form of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma, an exocrine cancer.

What are Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer?

Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are treatment options that may extend survival and/or relieve symptoms. However, they rarely cure the illness. Only about 20% of patients are surgical candidates, since pancreatic cancer is usually discovered only after it has spread.

What are Risks for Pancreatic Cancer?

  • Smoking both tobacco and non-tobacco products
  • Occupational exposures to certain chemicals
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Age
  • A family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Inherited conditions such as Lynch syndrome or hereditary pancreatitis
  • African Americans have a higher risk

There are no official screening guidelines for pancreatic cancer. Testing is only recommended for people who are experiencing symptoms suggestive of pancreatic cancer. People who smoke , however, should be advised to stop and informed of their greatly increased risk of pancreatic cancer and other serious disease. For patients with hereditary pancreatitis , it is recommended that screening starts at age 35 . In those who have a family history of pancreatic cancer, screening may have to start at age 10.

How is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may have pancreatic cancer, you will have have one or more imaging tests such as a CT scan or an MRI.

You may also have a biopsy - a tissue sample from the pancreas which is treated and then inspected under a microscope.

Meet our Pancreatic Cancer Specialists:

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute