We heard earlier this week that Alex Trebek is suffering from Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer. This is obviously devastating news to an individual we have watched for years, each day looking very healthy. We thought we would take a minute and discuss this form of cancer. This is an awful disease and although not common, just 56,000 new cases a year but the sobering fact is that more than 45,000 die each year from Pancreatic cancer.
This is the cancer that reminds us that life is short, every day is a blessing. Enjoy every day to its fullest, be thankful for your health and do what you can to protect it. Say thanks to those around you and cherish every day.
Here is a short primer of Pancreas and Pancreatic cancer
The pancreas is an organ that sits essentially in the middle of your abdomen. It sits deep in abdomen which is by design, it is a fragile organ so protecting it from physical trauma is probably one reason it is located where it is. It is an important organ as it produces insulin which regulates our sugar levels in our body, and enzymes that allow us to digest food. Cancer in this organ is awful, I say that because the signs and symptoms of this disease are often not noticed until the cancer has spread. Once it has spread beyond the pancreas the treatment is much more difficult and the chance of survival is very low. For most patients they have no symptoms or the symptoms are not very specific so the chance of finding this cancer early is low or sometimes by chance. I say by chance as in some cases a CT scan is being done for a completely different problem and the tumor is noted, for these patients that incidental finding can be a life saver.
- Pain in the abdomen that may rotate to the back
- Diffuse abdominal pain that is difficult to describe
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (Jaundice)
- Unexplained blood clots and new onset of diabetes are also red flags
Causes and prevention are two areas that are very frustrating. We really don’t have specific causes for pancreatic cancer, we have identified risk factors but we have yet to determine actual causes.