November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and with the recent death of Steve Jobs and Hollywood icon Patrick Swayze, pancreatic cancer is something that most of us have heard about. Dr. Gregory A. Echt, founder of Choice Cancer Care, is a renowned oncologist located right here in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Dr. Echt’s own dedication to the cause is personal: with two very close friends, having passed away from pancreatic cancer, he is very close to the effects that the disease has on those who have it and their families. Dr. Echt and his wife, Susan started the Michael C. Sandler and Peter Kenner Cancer Foundation right here in DFW to help those affected by cancer and to assist in raising funds for important pancreatic cancer research.
Some facts about pancreatic cancer:
· 44,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed and more than 37,000 deaths from the disease are expected in 2011 alone;
· Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all cancers (94% of patients die within first five years);
· This disease remains one of the hardest to treat due to its extreme resistance to treatment and few early symptoms. It’s deadly because in its earliest and most treatable phases, it’s rarely detected.
· There is hope: more than a dozen new treatments are currently being tested in clinical trials.
Risk Factors of pancreatic cancer:
· Age: The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age, with 90 percent of patients diagnosed after age 55. The average age of diagnosis is 72.
· Race: African-Americans face a higher risk of pancreatic cancer than Caucasians.
· Smoking: People who smoke are approximately twice as likely to have pancreatic cancer as non-smokers.
· Obesity and Lack of Exercise: Those who are considered obese and those who do not get physical activity face an increased risk of the disease.
· Family History: Those with a family history of the disease have an increased risk for pancreatic cancer. In some cases, the incidence of pancreatic cancer in a family may be associated with a genetic mutation. Genetic tests may identify a person’s risk for the disease.
Symptoms and Signs
Because the pancreas is located deep in the body, physicians often are unable to detect tumors during a regular check-up. When symptoms begin to appear, pancreatic cancer has often grown to an advanced stage and metastasized to surrounding organs, leading to a lower survival rate. If any of these symptoms are experienced, consult your physician immediately:
· Yellowing of the skin or eyes
· Discomfort in the abdomen area
· Sudden loss of weight
· Difficulty digesting certain foods
· Swelling of the gallbladder
· Blood clots
Tips for Prevention
· Stop all tobacco use
· Maintain a healthy body weight through proper nutrition and consistent physical activity.
Choice Cancer Care offers many cancer treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients which can include surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. A combination of cancer treatments may be used to provide the best chance of disease control. In addition, clinical trials are regularly conducted to identify new or expanded cancer therapies to improve treatment outcomes for this deadly disease. Through participation in clinical trials, patients can help physicians identify new and promising drugs, while expanding their own treatment options.