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Challenges of Pancreatic Cancer (with Infographic)

Those who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer usually face many questions, fears and emotions. Pancreatic cancer makes up just 3 percent of cancers in the U.S., but it is particularly deadly.

It accounts for 7 percent of deaths from cancer, the American Cancer Society says. Just 8.5 percent of people survived five years after diagnosis between 2008 and 2014, according to the National Cancer Institute.

About 1.6 percent of U.S. adults will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in their lifetimes, according to the National Cancer Institute. More than 55,000 new cases were diagnosed last year, the institute estimates. In stage 4 pancreatic cancer, or the most advanced stage, the disease has usually spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, or peritoneal cavity (the body cavity that contains most of the organs in the abdomen).

The risk of pancreatic cancer increases with age, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly, 70 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are aged 65 or older. Smoking and a family history can increase a person’s risk of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is also difficult to detect and diagnose early.

“Pancreatic cancers can best be treated with an integrated, multi-specialty approach where the patient’s case is reviewed by more than one specialist,” says Govindarajan Narayanan, M.D. [1] , chief of interventional oncology at Miami Cancer Institute [2]. “A diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer is very challenging. Most advances in pancreatic cancer treatments are most effective when the cancer is confined to the pancreas. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer means the cancer has spread to other organs.”

Infographic by Irina de Souza