"Warning Signs" of Pancreatic Cancer

OncoLink
Last Modified: May 8, 2012

Question:

My grandfather was just diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. He was feeling completely fine until just few weeks ago. We are all so surprised by this. Could there have been any "warning signs" or test that could have been done before the cancer got to this point?

Answer:

Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Medical Oncologist at Penn Medicine responds:

There are no screening tests for pancreatic cancer. It is in a tricky location and most patients do not have symptoms from the cancer until the disease is more advanced. Only 1 in 5 patients are actually surgical/respectable and therefore potentially curable at presentation. The pancreas is nestled in a rich bed of lymph nodes and blood vessels and just adjacent to the liver so pancreatic cancer has a lot of opportunities to spread.

Even with metastatic disease, if your grandfather is fit enough, there are a lot of new systemic chemotherapies that are effective and tolerable. Our hope is that even if his disease isn't curable, it is treatable, with the goal of prolonging his life and helping manage any side effects of the cancer.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Pancreatic Cancer Webchat.

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