Pancreatic Awareness Month
Hunter Epperson ~ Staff Writer
In light of Alex Trebeck’s death there has been a national conversation on pancreatic cancer. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 47,000 deaths this year have been due to pancreatic cancer, and there have been roughly 58,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer confirmed this year.
Pancreatic cancer is caused by the formation of malignant cells (cancer cells) in the tissues of the pancreas.
So who is at risk? Individuals older than 45 years old, both males and females (but especially males), people of color, persons with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, individuals who are very overweight, have a family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), personal history of diabetes or chronic pancreatitis, smoke or have a history of smoking, or hereditarily conditions such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch syndrome), von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome, or ataxia-telangiectasia, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer are mild in the first stages, which makes diagnosis difficult. However, the National Institutes of Health states that the signs and symptoms to watch out for can include: jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), light-colored stools, dark urine, pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back, weight loss for no known reason, loss of appetite, and/or feeling very tired.
However, there are preventive strategies individuals can use to prevent their chances of getting pancreatic cancer. They include avoiding smoking, managing your diet, weight, and physical activity, and avoiding alcohol use, as well as limiting exposure to certain chemicals.