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Pancreatic cancer difficult to detect in its early stages

Pancreatic cancer awareness arising after recent celebrity deaths
Posted at 7:44 AM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 12:18:13-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — We’re learning more about pancreatic cancer following the death of Alex Trebek.

According to American Cancer Society pancreatic cancer represents about 3 percent of all cancers and about 7 percent of all cancer deaths. They say those with pancreatic cancer have a life expectancy more than five years of around 5 percent. TV show host Alex Trebek made his announcement of his pancreatic diagnosis 20 months ago before his death last week.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died from complications of mestastic pancreatic cancer, as did U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who dedicated his life to civil rights and non-violent activism.

David Kolovson, director of communication with the American Cancer Society, said more than 4,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and an estimated 3,100 people are going to die from the disease.

Kolovson says the problem with pancreatic cancer is it is very tough to detect early on.

“It's hard to find because the pancreas is kind of deep within the body and the symptoms don’t really arise until the cancer spreads outside of the pancreas,” he said.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer include jaundice, dark urine, stomach or back pain, weight loss or appetite reduction, nausea, vomiting and blood clots, Kolovson said.

Those symptoms don't appear until the cancer has reached its late stages. And by then, it becomes deadly.

Doctor of osteopathic medicine Dr. Jorge Ramirez said to reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer, he encourages patients to live a healthy lifestyle that includes eating the right foods, participating in some physical activity and making sure to get regular physical exams.

“Your annual wellness exams with your doctor, that way, you can let your primary care doctor know what kind of family history you have and if there is any risks,” he said.

Doctors say some of the risk factors that you can control are very similar to other cancers. Smoking and the use of other tobacco products are the number one risk factor for all cancers including pancreatic. Other risks include obesity, family history and age.

For more information you can visit American Cancer Society here.