Pancreatic Cancer Facts: The 10 Most
By: Denise Ricks
People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer often face
confusing regarding pancreatic cancer facts and fiction. If or
when you are diagnosed with cancer of any kind, there is a
range of emotions you may experience. This includes
everything from fear to terror, heartbreak to sadness, and
even confusion. You may deal with a little denial, and you will
most likely deal with shock. However, you may also come to
terms with your diagnosis and want to find out as much as
you can about pancreatic cancer. There are so many myths out there, but what’s really important is
knowing the facts about pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 1: Life Expectancy
The survival rate of patients with pancreatic cancer is one of the worst. The estimate is that just over
44,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on an annual basis, and just more than 37,600
of those diagnosed will not survive. It is one of the few cancers that have not seen an increase in survival
rate in more than 40 years. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer in the country. Typically,
those diagnosed with this type of cancer are given an estimated lifespan of three to six months if they
have metastatic disease as well.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 2: Causes and Symptoms
There is little known about the cause of pancreatic cancer. In fact, medical professionals have defined
very few risk factors. Those defined include age, smoking, family history of pancreatic cancer, and
diabetes. Symptoms are vague, and often misinterpreted for some other illness. Abdominal and back
pain, jaundice, weight loss, lack of appetite, and changes in a person’s stool are the only symptoms of
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 3: Detection
Detecting pancreatic cancer is not as simple as detecting other forms of cancer, which is why patients
often do not know they have it until it is too late. There are no detection devices that can catch
pancreatic cancer when it is still new enough to treat or remove. For this reason, pancreatic cancer is
one of the most dangerous and deadliest forms of cancer in the country.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 4: Treatment Options
Unfortunately, treatment options are very limited when it comes to pancreatic cancer. Fewer than 20
percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are eligible for surgical removal. Most patients are
offered a combination of chemotherapy and radiation to fight the cancer, but it is only successful on
occasion. Currently, there are three FDA-approved drugs available for treatment of pancreatic cancer: 5-
FU, Gemzar, and Tarceva.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 5: Gender Issues
There is no preferred sex when it comes to diagnosing pancreatic cancer. According to the National
Cancer Institute, the ratio of men to women who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on an annual
basis differs by less than 300, with men being diagnosed just a few more times each year than women.
There is no way to tell who will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer until they are diagnosed; it doesn’t
matter if you are a man or a woman, your chances are pretty much equal.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 6: Stages of Pancreatic Cancer
There are three stages of pancreatic cancer, and one unknown stage, for a grand total of four stages.
The earliest state is localized, which means your tumor is confined to one site. Regional is the next stage,
and it indicates that your cancer has spread to your lymphnodes. Distant is next, and it means your
cancer has metastasized. The other stage is unknown, which means unknown.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 7: Survival Rate by Stages
If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your survival rate depends on the stage of your cancer
when it is detected. The rate is based on a five year survival. If your cancer is localized, you have a 23.3
percent chance of surviving five or more years. If it is regional, you have an 8.9 percent chance of
surviving five or more years. If it is unknown, your five year survival rate is 3.9 percent. If your cancer is
metastasized you have only a 1.8 percent survival rate of five or more years.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 8: Lifetime Risk
The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer means that a certain number of people born
are going to be diagnosed. Right now, that means that 1.47 percent of people born today will likely be
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at some point in their lifetime. That is everyone’s lifetime risk at birth.
Later factors will change a person’s risk, such as their family history of the disease as well as their overall
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 9: Cancer Research
The sad part about pancreatic cancer is that it is so deadly and treatment has made little progress in the
past 40 years. Additionally, the National Cancer Institute spends only 2 percent of its annual budget on
pancreatic cancer research, which means that it gets less attention and research than so many other
cancers. There is no cure, which does not look to change anytime in the near future.
Pancreatic Cancer Fact 10: Additional Facts
Pancreatic cancer is a form of cancer that typically affects older people. In fact, 90 percent of people
diagnosed with it are older than 55. This makes age one of the biggest factors in contributing to the
diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. However, it does not mean that you cannot be diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer just because you are young. It is the 10th most diagnosed cancer in the country.
Sadly, there is little that can be done to predict whether you or someone close to you will be diagnosed
with this deadly cancer at some point in your life. What’s even sadder is that there is little that can be
done once you are diagnosed with this type of cancer, unless it is caught in the early stage, which is very
rare. For now, the best you can do is hope that cancer research has a breakthrough in finding out more
about this type of cancer.