Morning Rounds: Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

NORFOLK, Va. - November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and News 3 is taking action to help you recognize the signs, symptoms and best ways to prevent it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pancreatic cancer is among the ten most common forms of cancers for both men and women, and it is the cause of seven percent of all cancer deaths.

News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light said pancreatic cancer, which forms in the pear-shaped gland behind the stomach, doesn't have any distinct signs, but there are symptoms that should be a cause for concern:

  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Jaundice, or dark-colored urine
  • Abdominal pain radiating to the back
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea

"These symptoms can result from many medical conditions and are not specific for pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Light, who still stressed the importance of informing your doctor if you're experiencing these symptoms.

Dr. Light said people who have multiple risk factors are at a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer.  The risk factors for pancreatic cancer are:

  • Chronic inflammation termed pancreatitis (often linked heavy alcohol consumption)
  • Family history and genetic link (BRAC2)
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Increased with age over 65

"There is currently no recommended screening test for pancreatic cancer in the general population.  However, if you are at high risk there are screening tool for early detection.  This may include genetic testing, tumor marker level testing and advanced imaging studies," explained Dr. Light.

Dr. Light listed ways to help prevent the development of this disease:

  • Stop smoking
  • Healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • If a family history of pancreatic cancer exists, talk with you doctor about early screening

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