Pancreatic cancer is often difficult to detect in the early stages due to a lack of symptoms. However, a person may notice symptoms of pancreatic cancer in the later stages.
Pancreatic cancer affects males and females at about the same rate, though males have a slightly higher rate than females.
Similar to many other cancers, pancreatic cancer often does not present symptoms in the early stages. This can make early diagnosis
This article reviews pancreatic cancer symptoms, risk factors, treatments, and outlook.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Pancreatic cancer often
A number of different underlying conditions may cause nonspecific symptoms, so the presence of one or more symptoms does not mean a person has pancreatic cancer. In many cases, it is more likely another condition is causing their symptoms.
Some common symptoms a person with pancreatic cancer may experience include:
- deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- enlarged gallbladder or liver
- nausea and vomiting
- reduced appetite
- unintentional weight loss
- back or abdominal pain
These symptoms may affect both males and females. A person should speak with a doctor if they experience any of the above symptoms. A healthcare professional can determine whether the symptoms are from pancreatic cancer or another condition.
Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to detect early. This is due in part to the location of the pancreas, which is deep inside the body. Therefore, an early, small tumor is not easy for healthcare professionals to feel during a physical exam.
According to the American Cancer Society, a family history of pancreatic cancer as well as certain genetic conditions may increase a person’s risk of developing the condition.
- intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms, which are precancerous tumors that grow in the ducts of the pancreas
- chronic pancreatitis
- drinking alcohol and smoking
Learn more about genetic testing for pancreatic cancer here.
Pancreatic cancer treatment can vary between people. Healthcare professionals often recommend treatment approaches
- a person’s age and overall health
- the chances of curing the cancer
- a person’s feelings about potential side effects
- whether or not surgery can remove the cancer
- the presence of other conditions
- the stage of the cancer
Common treatment options a doctor
- medication and other therapies for pain
surgery, such as the Whipple procedure
ablation or embolization, which may include radiofrequency ablation or arterial embolization
- radiation therapy
immunotherapy, which uses medications to stimulate a person’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells more effectively
- targeted therapy, which uses medications that specifically target cancer cells in a different way than standard chemotherapy medications
Some people may also consider complementary therapies alongside standard treatments. These therapies
- physical activity
- guided imagery
Additionally, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 7% of all cancer-related deaths in the country, notes a
The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database collects information about cancer survival statistics. The National Cancer Institute maintains the database.
The table below shows the
|5-year relative survival rate||Stage|
|44%||localized, which means the cancer has not spread past the pancreas|
|15%||regional, which means the cancer has spread to nearby structures or lymph nodes|
|3%||distant, which means the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs, or liver|
|12%||all stages combined|
Pancreatic cancer affects everyone differently. People who receive a diagnosis today may have a better outlook than the 5-year relative survival rates suggest.
Additionally, individual factors including age, overall health, and other existing conditions all affect a person’s outlook.
A person with pancreatic cancer can talk with a doctor about their individual outlook.
Learn more about the survival rate for pancreatic cancer here.
Pancreatic cancer causes similar symptoms in females and males. However, the condition can be difficult to detect in the early stages due to a lack of symptoms.
People can speak with a doctor if they are experiencing any symptoms of pancreatic cancer. In many cases, the symptoms have a different underlying cause.
Treatments for pancreatic cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. A person can speak with a healthcare professional, who can recommend the best options on an individual basis.
Pancreatic cancer typically has low 5-year relative survival rates. However, a person can discuss their individual outlook with a doctor to determine their own outlook.