Spotlight on Pancreatic Cancer

The death of famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti at age 71 highlights pancreatic cancer, a disease that is often difficult to detect and diagnose early. Click here to read more on Pavarotti

The difficulty in catching the disease in its early stages presents many dangers and, currently, cancer of the pancreas is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

Here is some information on how to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease:

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is the formation of malignant cancer cells in the tissues of the pancreas.

What are the symptoms?

Pancreatic cancer has very few early symptoms and, in some cases, may present no symptoms at all or symptoms that may be confused for other ailments. However, some symptoms include yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice), pain in the upper/middle abdomen and back and unexplained weight loss and fatigue.

Who’s at risk?

Smoking and family history of the disease increase an individual's chances of getting the disease. Other risk factors include chronic pancreatitis and diabetes.

What are the treatment options?

Surgery to remove the malignant tumor is the best treatment. However, if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body such as the lymph nodes, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments may be necessary.

Click here for more information about pancreatic cancer.

Ways to prevent it?

Don’t smoke/quit smoking. People at high risk for the disease may benefit from periodic screenings such as chest X-rays, annual physicals, CT/PET scans and MRI.