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Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer: What You Need to Know

Scan of the abdomen and pancreas, showing where in the body patients would experience pancreatic cancer symptoms

  • Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the U.S.

  • Several risk factors, including those you can and cannot control, may impact your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Smoking and excessive drinking may increase your risk.

  • Although pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose, several tests involving imaging and X-ray technology, are available.

  • Your age, overall health, medical history and cancer stage will help determine your treatment plan, which may include surgical or nonsurgical techniques.

Overview

Pancreatic cancer occurs when a cell in the pancreas is damaged, causing the malignant (cancer) cell to start to grow out of control. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. In fact, about two-thirds of patients are diagnosed at age 65 or older, according to the American Cancer Society. Slightly more men than women are affected by pancreatic cancer. Cigarette smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for pancreatic cancer. About 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are inherited.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The American Cancer Society reported that pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers in the U.S.

Like most cancers, early detection of pancreatic cancer is critical. Survival rates are impacted by tumor size and whether the cancer has spread to other organs.

Symptoms

Patients rarely experience the signs of pancreatic cancer until the disease has spread to other parts of the body. The most common symptoms include jaundice and pain in the back and abdomen.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer symptoms.

Risk Factors

Certain factors may increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer. Cigarette smoking, chronic pancreatitis and family history are among the top risk factors.

Learn more pancreatic cancer risk factors.

Screening

Screening tests for pancreatic cancer may be available for patients who are at high risk due to family history or the presence of associated genetic syndromes.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer screening.

Diagnosis

Because the organ sits deep within the abdomen, tumors of the pancreas are often difficult to diagnose. High-tech tests to diagnose pancreatic cancer include three-dimensional imaging.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

Types

Types of pancreatic cancer fall within two main categories. Diagnosis rate, symptoms and prognosis vary by cancer type.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer types.

Stages

Staging is used to describe pancreatic cancer based on how far it has spread. Your physician may use one of two types of staging systems to characterize your disease.

Learn more pancreatic cancer stages.

Treatment

Specific treatment for pancreatic cancer is based on several factors such as age, medical history and stage. Several innovative treatments are now available to help combat the disease.

Learn more pancreatic cancer treatment.

Prognosis

Average five-year survival rates are available for each stage of pancreatic cancer. While these rates tend to be much lower than other cancers, they have improved over time.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer prognosis.

Survivorship

Pancreatic cancer survivors may need to make several adjustments as they recover. Exploring various side effects of ongoing pancreatic cancer treatment can help you adjust to a new “normal.”

Learn more about pancreatic cancer survivorship.

More Information About Pancreatic Cancer from Johns Hopkins Medicine

Doctor examines a patient's abdomen

Potential New Therapies Help Outsmart Pancreatic Cancer

Research teams around the world are working to uncover novel ways to attack this disease. Every day doctors learn more about how new treatments, such as immunotherapies, could help treat pancreatic cancer more effectively.

Read more.

Man clutches his stomach

Pancreatic Cancer Vaccine: What to Know

A new pancreatic cancer vaccine being tested in clinical trials aims to restore the power of a patient's immune system. A Johns Hopkins expert explains.

Read more.



Doctor and patient discuss immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer

Immunotherapy: A New Frontier for Pancreatic Cancer?

Immunotherapies for pancreatic cancer offer fresh potential for more comprehensive treatments. A Johns Hopkins expert details what you should know.

Read more.

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