Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

November 2010

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month!

Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to find and diagnose. There usually are no signs or symptoms during the early stages of the cancer. Once the cancerous tumor grows larger and/or spreads, the symptoms often feel like symptoms of other, more common, illnesses.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include:

  • unexplained weight loss;
  • unexplained abdominal or back pain;
  • loss of appetite;
  • feeling tired;
  • digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation;
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes,
  • or increased blood sugar.

In addition, it can be hard to see if there are problems with the pancreas because it is a small organ that hides behind all the other organs in the abdomen: the stomach, small intestine, and the large liver.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, chronic pancreatitis, and if you have had diabetes for many years. Some people may have genetic conditions that raise their risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

These include:

  • hereditary pancreatitis,
  • multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome (also called MEN 1),
  • hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC, or Lynch Syndrome),
  • von Hippel-Lindau syndrome,
  • ataxia-telangiectasia, and
  • familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM).