Karmanos Cancer Institute recognizes Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Understand the symptoms of the cancer that holds the third highest number of deaths

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, along with cancer centers and other organizations across the nation, recognizes November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. As its name indicates, pancreatic cancer originates in the pancreas, an organ that sits behind the stomach. The pancreas aids in digestion and helps regulate blood sugar.

About Pancreatic Cancer

Exocrine cells make up the majority of the pancreas. When these cells grow out of control, adenocarcinoma of the pancreas occurs. Pancreatic adenocarcinomas account for about 95% of pancreatic cancers.

Pancreatic Cancer Facts and Figures

  • About 64,050 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2023.
  • About 50,550 people will die of pancreatic cancer in 2023.
  • Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the U.S. and about 7% of all cancer deaths.
  • The average lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 64.
  • Pancreatic cancer is slightly more common in men than in women.

All data reported by the American Cancer Society.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors

In early stages, pancreatic cancer usually does not have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include jaundice, pain in the abdomen or back, weight loss, nausea, blood clots, or enlargement of the gallbladder or liver. Though it is rare, pancreatic cancer can destroy the insulin-making cells causing diabetes. Some symptoms that may suggest an onset of diabetes or changes in blood sugar levels are feeling thirsty and hungry, or having to urinate often. You should see your doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms.

“The risk of pancreatic cancer can be increased with excessive alcohol use and smoking tobacco, which are some of the leading causes of the disease,” explained Anthony Shields, M.D., Ph.D., medical oncologist, and leader of the Gastrointestinal & Neuroendocrine Oncology and Phase 1 Clinical Trials Multidisciplinary Teams (MDT). “About 25% of pancreatic cancer cases are believed to be caused by cigarette smoking. This disease also slightly affects more men than women, and people over the age of 45.”

Additional lifestyle factors that increase the risk of pancreatic cancer are being overweight, diabetes, exposure to certain chemicals and chronic pancreatitis. Some risk factors for pancreatic cancer cannot be controlled. Besides age and sex, the uncontrollable risk factors also include race, family history and genetic syndromes inherited from a parent.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment at Karmanos Cancer Institute

At Karmanos, pancreatic cancer is treated by the Gastrointestinal & Neuroendocrine Oncology MDT, which includes surgical, medical and radiation oncologists; interventional radiologists; pathologists; specialized nurse practitioners; dietitians; social workers and genetic counselors. The team is entirely focused on treating gastrointestinal cancers and shares its collective expertise to create a customized treatment plan for each patient.

“Our team works closely with our researchers to really understand this disease and find better ways to treat the cancer. We offer many clinical trials, so we can provide our patients with standard treatments and promising new therapies. We are able to offer a wide range of available treatment options for pancreatic cancer,” added Dr. Shields.

Each patient receives a carefully constructed treatment plan designed to achieve the best possible outcome.

To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here or call 1-800-KARMANOS.