Learn More About Pancreatic Cancer

While I never like to hear that someone I know has been diagnosed with cancer, my heart always seems to ache a little more when I hear that the diagnosis is pancreatic cancer. While cancer causes aren’t definitively known, there are a few risk factors for pancreatic cancer that can be managed by lifestyle changes while researchers work to better identify how to lessen the occurrence of this disease and help people who are diagnosed live longer.

The initial statistic I found from the National Cancer Institute was simply shocking: the lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 71.  While they estimate that 44,030 new cases will be diagnosed in 2011, they also estimate that 37,660 people will die of the disease as well.

Of course, like other cancers, early detection is important.  With pancreatic cancer, though, early detection is very difficult.  Because the pancreas is located deep within the body, it is difficult to notice that there are tumors which cause this cancer to be most often diagnosed in its later stages.

Risk factors that can contribute to pancreatic cancer can be managed by lifestyle changes.  The American Cancer Society notes “cigarette smoking is the most important avoidable risk factor for pancreatic cancer,” and that it is responsible for 20-30% of pancreatic cancers.  Maintaining a healthy body weight and regular exercise are also very important to lowering the risk factors for this cancer.

Another important factor with this disease and most others is attitude and personal outlook.  Medical intervention is only part of the equation.  Public figures like Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze and Randy Pausch didn’t take their diagnoses lying down.  They fought.  They lived.  They inspired so many to do more no matter what was being put in their way.  And although their absence is felt by so many people in this country and around the world, their battle continues to be an inspiration to those newly diagnosed and to scientists working to end the disease.

Take some time this November and please learn more about pancreatic cancer.  For more information, please visit the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute websites.

Dedicated in memory of Lou and Barbara – two brave fighters of pancreatic cancer.

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