Have you ever been to a Relay for Life event or seen people wearing purple ribbons? If not, now is the time to learn more about pancreatic cancer. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month and a purple ribbon represents pancreatic cancer. Take some time this month to educate yourself about the cancer, its risk factors, and the importance of early detection.
Pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow out of control and form a tumor. There are two types of pancreatic cancer: exocrine and endocrine. More than 95% of pancreatic cancer is exocrine which starts in the exocrine cells that make pancreatic enzymes which help in digestion. The second type results in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. These may be benign or malignant, but tend to grow faster than exocrine tumors. They develop from the abnormal growth of endocrine (hormone-producing) cells in the pancreas.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can be difficult for several reasons. The pancreas is located deep in the abdomen between the stomach and the back which makes it difficult for doctors to see or feel the tumor. Symptoms are not always obvious and develop gradually. There is no standard diagnostic test. A pancreatic tumor can only be seen on an imaging study such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Thus, pancreatic cancer is hard to find early and usually when symptoms present themselves the cancer has already spread to other organs. Talk with a professional such as a genetic counselor, geneticist, or oncologist to help determine if you are at a high risk and need to consider other options for early detection.
By: Elizabeth Mumaw, MS, CPO, Aquatics Manager at Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center
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