Pancreatic cancer is widely accepted as one of the deadliest forms of this disease. After all, an estimated 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this type of cancer in the coming year. About 41,000 will die from it. Despite a five-year survival rate that is less than 10 percent, pancreatic cancer happens to be a relatively slow grower, researchers have found.
Because of its deadly nature, pancreatic cancer was once believed to be one that was quick to develop and spread. Studies, however, show that’s simple not the case. Research indicates that it can take up to two decades for this form of cancer to completely develop. That’s 20 years from first appearance of trouble to reaching the point the tumors claim lives.
While that large window of opportunity for detection is great news, it’s not news that can be acted upon so readily. Pancreatic cancer has no widely available screening tool. That means it is very difficult to track in its earliest, most treatable stages. Complicating matters is the fact that pancreatic cancer presents initially with few or no symptoms whatsoever. When symptoms do appear, they may be misdiagnosed as other related issues, such as diabetes or pancreatitis. Making the situation even graver is the fact that most pancreatic cancers are not detected until they’ve spread and reached deadly phases.
The slow-growing nature of pancreatic cancer does present with a few rays of hope, researchers insist. Knowing the timeframe and the ability doctors might have to save lives if the disease were detected early only shines the spotlight more brightly on the need to develop an effective screening tool. Work on this front is well under way.
In lieu of a common screening tool, people concerned about their pancreatic cancer risks will find there are steps they can take to protect themselves. The first involves knowing personal risks. They include family history, suffering from chronic pancreatitis, having diabetes and being obese, among others. For a full workup of risk factors, it’s suggested people consult with their healthcare providers.
Knowing risks is an important first step in safeguarding against pancreatic cancer. The second involves following up with healthcare providers should any alarming symptoms arise. Symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, blood clots, pain in the back, jaundice and weight loss, among others.
Anyone who is at risk or concerned about pancreatic cancer should speak to their healthcare provider. This form of cancer when caught early can sometimes be successfully treated. The trick lies in catching the disease during that slow initial development phase.