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Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

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Ailment can be difficult to treat

The recent news of iconic “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek’s passing is a reminder of just how deadly pancreatic cancer is. Trebek’s very public cancer battle has throttled Month into the national spotlight.

Pancreatic cancer is not easy to find early, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. The pancreas is a small organ tucked in a tight area behind the middle of the stomach and surrounded by critical blood vessels and nerves. It produces digestive enzymes that travel through ducts of the intestines to allow you to absorb fats. When most people learn of a loved one being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it is usually arising from the ducts of the pancreas as the most common type, adenocarcinoma. Tumors in early stages can’t be seen or felt during a routine physical exam.

According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the United States. More than 47,000 people die from it each year. It is one of the more difficult cancers people can face, and it can be difficult to treat. It is usually at stage III or stage IV when diagnosed, meaning it has spread to the lymph nodes or is invading surrounding organs or already spread to distant organs.

There is no identified cause, but it is important to understand your risk factors and learn about pancreatic cancer symptoms. Several factors can be modified, including smoking, alcohol use, weight management and diet. Eating a lot of processed meats, like sausage and bacon, has been identified as increasing risk.

Some risk factors can’t be changed, including age, gender, ethnicity, family history and genetic syndromes. Pancreatic cancer is more common in men, diabetic patients and those who suffer from chronic pancreatitis or an inflamed pancreas. If a family member has ever been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you could have an increased risk.

Be aware of symptoms that sometimes mimic pre-existing conditions. It can be something as simple as a stomach ache or back pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, problems digesting foods and bowel habits changes. Jaundice, yellowing of the eyes or having dark urine, is also very common and one of the first warning signs that something could be wrong.

At CHRISTUS Cancer Treatment Center, a personalized course of treatment helps patients beat cancer based on their health and stage of disease. If surgery can be performed, it is usually the most viable option. We are aggressive in treating it but also very aware of what our patients can tolerate.

Patients have access to the most advanced comprehensive care, including clinical trials, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy, or a combination of more than one treatment.

For more information on cancer care or treatment options, visit https://www.christushealth.org/shreveport-bossier/services-treatments/cancer-care.

Dr. Christopher Snead is a hematologist and oncologist at CHRSITUS Cancer Treatment Center and has experience treating many different cancer types.

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