While health experts say pancreatic cancer is uncommon, there are 52,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It’s the third most common cause of cancer related deaths. But how it’s caused is a question medical experts are still trying to answer.

Dr. Mark Bloomston, a surgical oncologist on staff at Lee Memorial Health System, says pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose. “If we could figure out what’s causing pancreatic cancer then maybe we could make some moves to prevent it. “

He says there are certain risk factors that have been identified like family history, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and an unhealthy lifestyle. “It doesn’t seem to select a race, age, or gender, which is kind of the difficult thing about it because you can’t pick out a population that’s at the highest risk.”

Some patients will experience symptoms like weight loss, jaundice, chronic inflammation of the pancreas, and abdominal pain. “Unfortunately, about 90 percent of them, by the time they’ve realized they have the cancer it has already spread and surgery is not an option,” said Dr. Bloomston.

But he says if it’s caught in time, the only treatment is surgery to remove the pancreas. “You can actually live without your pancreas. So you can remove the entirety of the pancreas, we prefer not to because it does instantly cause diabetes.”

For those at a higher risk, health experts recommend screening using an endoscopic ultrasound. If the tumor is found in time chemo therapy can be used instead of surgery. “Wer’re finally seeing in the last few years chemo therapy that’s starting to work, not to cure it, not to get rid of it, but we are seeing tumors start to shrink, stabilize and become removable.”

Giving patients a better chance.

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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