The American Cancer Society estimates that 45,000 people will be diagnosed with, and 38,000 will die from pancreatic cancer in 2013, but now researchers are working on ways to detect the killer before it forms.
Pancreatic cancer does not discriminate when it comes to who dies from the disease, in 2011 Apple CEO Steve Jobs was one of those victims.
“The number of people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year is the same number, almost the same number as the people who die,” says Dr. Anne Marie Lennon, of Johns Hopkins University.
The chances of living five years after diagnoses are less than five percent because most patients will die within the first year.
Doctors say the reason pancreatic cancer is so deadly is because it can be difficult to detect. Patient’s usually show no symptoms until the cancer has already spread. Now, researchers are focusing on early detection to try and stop the disease before it forms.
A recent study found that up to 13 percent of patients who had an MRI had pancreatic cysts. Dr. Lennon says such cysts account for up to 20 percent of pancreatic cancers.
Doctors now use an endoscopic ultrasound to get high-resolution images of the pancreas to identify growths. If cysts are found doctors then biopsy and analyze the cyst fluid to determine whether or not it is cancerous.
According to Dr. Lennon, “So we have the potential to intervene and try and prevent up to 20% of people with pancreatic cancer developing it."
Researchers are also working on a promising genetic test that could help predict the potential of cysts to become cancerous. The genetic test is currently being studied in a large clinical trial across the country.
Thus far, scientists have found that African Americans have a higher risk of getting pancreatic cancer than Caucasians. The Mayo Clinic warns other top risk factors besides race include obesity, diabetes, smoking and a family history of pancreatic cancer.