Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all major caners. It is the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States surpassing breast cancer. It is expected to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in the US by the year 2020, surpassing colorectal cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer Facts
- In 2019 an estimated 56,770 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the
U.S., and more than 45,750 will die from the disease.
- Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved
substantially for more than 40 years.
- Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. For all stages
combined, 91% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only
9% will survive more than five years.
- Few risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer are defined. The risk for cigarette
smokers is twice that for those who have never smoked. Family history of pancreatic
cancer, chronic pancreatitis, alcohol use, obesity and diabetes are risk factors. Individuals
with Lynch syndrome and certain other genetic syndromes, as well as BRCA1 and BRCA2
mutation carriers, are also at increased risk.
- Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague symptoms that could indicate many different
conditions within the abdomen or gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include pain (usually
abdominal or back pain), weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of
appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes.
- Treatment options for pancreatic cancer: Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy
are treatment options that extend survival or relieve symptoms, but seldom produce a
cure. Surgical removal of the tumor is possible in less than 20% of patients diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer because detection is often in late stages and has spread beyond the
pancreas. Adjuvant treatment with chemotherapy (and sometimes radiation) may lower
the risk of recurrence. For advanced disease, chemotherapy (sometimes along with a
targeted drug therapy) may lengthen survival. Clinical trials are testing several new agents
for their ability to improve survival.
- Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death largely because there are no
detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when surgical removal of the
tumor is still possible.
*Source for statistics: American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts & Figures 2019.
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