Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Category: Events, News

Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States, which is why November is dedicated to raising awareness about the risks and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

Despite accounting for only 3% of all cancers, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 56,770 adults will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year alone, but only 9% will survive to five years and beyond.

Although these figures improve significantly with a 5-year survival rate of 34% when the cancer is detected early and removed surgically, the lack of routine screening and early-stage symptoms for most patients means that only one-tenth of pancreatic cancer cases is diagnosed at this stage. The sooner you receive a diagnosis and treatment, the greater your chances of survival, which is why knowing the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer (along with your own risk for developing it) is paramount.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Unfortunately, symptoms of pancreatic cancer often only occur in the late stages of the disease. They may include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen or mid-back
  • Ascites (buildup of fluid in the abdomen)
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion and/or nausea
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and/or eyes)
  • Stool changes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sudden-onset type 2 diabetes
  • Blood clots

Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

Although there is no routine screening for pancreatic cancer, there are risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer. Many of these can be eliminated or controlled through healthy lifestyle choices. If you are a high-risk patient, you may be eligible for a screening program. Risk factors that may increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer include:

  • Chronic pancreatitis and/or hereditary pancreatitis
  • Diabetes
    • Long-standing more than 5 years
  • Obesity
    • Obese people have a 20% increased risk compared to people of healthy weight.
  • Genetics
    • Having two or more first-degree relatives with pancreatic cancer or one who developed the disease before the age of 50, or having an inherited genetic syndrome associated with pancreatic cancer
    • Family history of breast, colon or breast cancer, or melanoma
  • Ethnicity
    • There is a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer among African-Americans and Ashkenazi Jews.
  • Age
    • The majority of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are over the age of 60.
  • Smoking
    • People who smoke have double the risk of people who have never smoked.
    • Smoking may cause 20% to 30% of all exocrine pancreatic cancer.
  • Diet & Alcohol
    • High consumption of red meat and processed meats may increase risk.
    • People who drink more than three alcoholic beverages daily have a higher risk.
  • Poor Oral Health
    • Studies show that people with a history of periodontal disease have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, even when controlling for other risk factors.
  • Environmental Chemicals
    • Exposure to certain chemicals (such as pesticides, benzidine, asbestos, benzene, some dyes and petrochemicals) may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.


GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C, treat multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract. Our Board-Certified physicians have over 150 years of combined experience in providing quality care you can trust. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.