Pancreatic Cancer: Warning Signs of Deadly Disease
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and those who have been touched by the illness want Tennesseans to recognize the warning signs, since early detection is key to having a better chance at survival.
Lisa Fair, Nashville affiliate chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, lost her mother to the illness.
“There’s not an early detection process, and the symptoms are really vague,” she says. “You might have low abdominal pain, or back pain, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, change in stools and diabetes.”
According to the latest data from the Tennessee Department of Health, pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the state, and the Volunteer State has the 12th highest rate of pancreatic cancer in the country. Only 13 percent of cases in the state were diagnosed early.
According to Fair, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a national organization that raises money for research and support for patients dealing with the illness.
“Pancreatic Cancer Action Network does a lot of clinical trials,” she says. “If someone is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, we have what we have call PALS, Patient and Liaison Services, which is a wonderful service for patients who are recently diagnosed. They can find out about all clinical trials in their area.”
While the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, experts say risk factors can include smoking, obesity, and people with diets high in red and processed meats. Most patients diagnosed with the cancer are over the age of 60, with a higher rate of men and African Americans receiving the diagnosis.