Many of us likely don't give much thought to our pancreas. What even is it, anyway?
The pancreas has to do with the stomachâit's vital to your digestion. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes and releases hormones (including insulin) to help control blood sugar.
Although pancreatic cancer isn't extremely common (55,000 people are currently diagnosed every year), it's one of the deadliest cancers because it has an uncanny ability to spread quietly.
Here we'll take a closer look at pancreatic cancer to understand more about this secretive disease.
Why Is Pancreatic Cancer so Deadly?
Located in the abdomen, part of the pancreas is between the stomach and spine while the rest of it lies in the curve of the small intestine.
As a result of its discreet location, smaller tumors on the pancreas aren't able to be felt and you might not experience symptoms until the tumor is big enough to affect its neighboring organs.
Since the majority of people aren't diagnosed until the cancer has advanced, many people with pancreatic cancer will be dead within a year of diagnosis.
Another thing that makes this cancer so deadly is that most people won't be eligible for surgery as treatment because the cancer will be too advanced, further cutting their chances of survival. Having surgery could increase the survival rate from 8% to 21% over a 5-year period.
A 2018 article from Scientific American purports that pancreatic cancer will soon overtake colon cancer for the second-leading cause of cancer in America. What's more is that, when it comes to pancreatic cancer, over 75 percent of new patients are between 55-years-old and 85-years-old.
According to Robert A. Wolff, an oncologist who has been treating pancreatic cancer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for 20 years:
"Since I've been practicing, I've seen a shift from smoking to obesity as the driver," he says. "An average patient of mine has a body mass index between 30 and 35 [obesity is defined as 30 or more], has diabetes or prediabetes, is hypertensive and takes a lipid-lowering agent."
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