Pancreatic cancer, also known as pancreatic carcinoma, is an aggressive type of cancer that invades the pancreas, an important organ near the stomach and the liver. While some pancreatic cancers can be caught and treated early, the prognosis for this disease is usually not good; the National Institutes of Health report that about 80% of people with pancreatic cancer already have advanced and incurable disease at the time of diagnosis. Most people with pancreatic cancer can try surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of the three, based on a doctor’s recommendation; however, the average survival time for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is usually less than a year. The National Cancer Institute reports that less than 5% of patients with pancreatic cancer survive for more than five years.

The main reason that pancreatic cancer is so deadly is because it does not have many obvious symptoms. People who do careful self exams can easily spot a suspicious mole that may be skin cancer or a strange lump that may be breast cancer; however, the pancreas is so deep inside your abdomen that it is very difficult to check by yourself for any signs that something may be wrong. Some early signs of pancreatic cancer include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and pain in the upper abdomen, or just under your ribcage. You may also notice jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes. None of these symptoms by themselves mean that you have pancreatic cancer; however, you should see your physician if you are concerned about your health and notice several of these symptoms.

Fortunately, you can make changes in your lifestyle to stay healthy and reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer. If you smoke, try to quit. The toxic chemicals that cigarettes add to your body definitely increase your risk of many cancers, including pancreatic cancer. In addition, you can add fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet to increase your antioxidant intake, which lowers your risk for many cancers. Losing those extra pounds that you carry may also help you; the Mayo Clinic reports that pancreatic cancer is more common in people who are overweight or obese. You may want to consult with a doctor to create a balanced diet and exercise regime for the weight loss plan that is good for your overall health.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your doctor will discuss treatment options and prognoses with you based on your individual case. Many patients find valuable psychological support within the medical system. However, external organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network can also provide valuable support and company to patients and families with pancreatic cancer. This organization and others can greatly improve your quality of life and help you and your family to stay positive while dealing with pancreatic cancer.

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