Cancer occurs when tumor cells reproduce abnormally — in this case in the Pancreas.
The Pancreas is a gland organ situated in the abdominal cavity that produces hormones essential to the functioning of the body.
Pancreatic Cancer most commonly affects those aged between 50 and 80; it is rare among younger people. Men, smokers and those with diabetes or chronic pancreatitis are at a higher risk of developing the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, there were almost 40,000 deaths from Pancreatic Cancer in the US this year and 50,000 new cases diagnosed. The lifetime risk of having Pancreatic Cancer is about 1 in 67.
The initial stages of the disease often produce symptoms that are invisible, leading to a late-stage diagnosis in many cases. When symptoms do occur they might include: pain in the upper abdomen or back, jaundice, nausea, weight loss, fatigue, poor appetite and depression. Conclusive diagnosis is usually made through imaging tests and a biopsy of the tumor.
The causes of Pancreatic Cancer are being researched, but it is believed that smoking, fatty diet, diabetes, obesity, chronic pancreatitis, cirrhosis and age could all be related. Nearly all pancreatic cancers are thought to be exocrine tumors and begin in the cells that create the enzymes necessary for proper digestion. Less commonly, neuroendocrine tumors are found, which affect the production of insulin and other critical hormones related to the digestive process.
Treatment usually requires surgery to remove the tumor but in many cases the cancerous cells have already spread by the time a diagnosis is made. Surgery may help to prevent further metastasis, while chemotherapy and radiation may also slow the progression and help to reduce pain and other symptoms.
Although most treatments for Pancreatic Cancer are palliative, research is currently underway into new drugs that will specifically target cancerous cells, and strategies to boost the immune system. As targeted therapies are often found to have fewer side effects than general chemotherapy and radiation, these developments show promise for future treatment of Pancreatic Cancer.
Among a number of organizations, Ribbons for Research has selected the following organization in support of this condition:
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) is the leading advocate for a cure for Pancreatic Cancer by comprehensively supporting efforts of the research community.
Their mission is to “Advance research, support patients and create hope for anyone facing Pancreatic Cancer.” Through their PALS program (Patient and Liaison Services), they make sure the latest treatments options and technologies reach patients and their families. By funding the American Association for Cancer Research, they ensure funds go to innovative, collaborative research. What started as a small volunteer effort to increase awareness has transformed into an army of volunteers across the nation. PCAN has a four star rating in Charity Navigator and an 83.8 per cent Program Expense Rating.