Dr. Mitra: Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer; this is what you need to know

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Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease that is rarely detected at an early stage.

It is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

It is estimated that more than 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by the end of this year, and more than 48,000 people will die from it.

The exact causes of pancreatic cancer are not well understood.

Factors that increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer include diabetes, smoking, a chronically inflamed pancreas, a family history of genetic disorders that may increase the risk of cancer, a family history of pancreatic cancer, and older age.

Additional factors that may increase risk include eating a diet rich in red or processed meats and obesity.

The three previous columns of Dr. Mitra:

Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen that lies behind the lower part of the stomach.

The pancreas has two main functions: it produces digestive enzymes such as amylase and lipase; And it also produces hormones, like insulin, that control how our bodies store and use glucose, the sugar that is the body’s main source of energy.

There are two forms of pancreatic cancer: exocrine and endocrine.

Exocrine cancer accounts for approximately 95 percent of all cases.

Endocrine cancer is also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors or islet cell tumors.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma accounts for approximately 85 percent of all pancreatic neoplasms.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma begins in the ductal cells that carry digestive enzymes produced by pancreatic cells to the duodenum.

While some of these risk factors are out of your control, here are some lifestyle choices you can make to lower your risk:

If you smoke, try to stop. Talk to your doctor about strategies to quit smoking, including medications, support groups, and nicotine replacement therapy.

Work to maintain a healthy diet. Get daily aerobic exercise with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that can lower your risk of cancer.

Common presenting symptoms in patients with exocrine pancreatic cancer are fatigue, unintentional weight loss, poor appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, oily stools, and back pain.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer usually don’t show up until the disease is advanced.

The condition is rarely caught in its early stages when it is most curable.

Early detection helps save lives. So learn and share the facts, symptoms, and risk factors for pancreatic cancer, encourage healthy choices, and provide guidance on when to seek genetic counseling.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, providing an opportunity to learn more about the risk factors for this highly deadly malignancy, inspire the community to take action, and drive research toward a cure.

November is a month of inspiration for communities affected by pancreatic cancer.

Why wait? Call your doctor for help taking the right steps to prevent pancreatic cancer, seek immediate intervention, and educate others.

Dr. Sue Mitra is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has been practicing in Brevard County since 2022. Dr. Mitra can be reached at 321-622-6222. You can visit her at www.suemitra.com and schedule an appointment. Call now to learn more about pancreatic cancer and assess the risks of this disease.

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