Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. 95% of all pancreatic cancers are adenocarcinomas, 1 and arise from the exocrine cells lining the pancreatic ducts. Surgery, when possible, is currently the only treatment that has shown any success in treating pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect in its early stages, when surgery may be curative. The majority of patients are diagnosed with advanced disease, for which the 5-year survival rate is only 3%.
The cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, but there are several risk factors that have been identified. Tobacco use and chronic pancreatitis are the two most significant risk factors, but other risk factors include obesity, diabetes mellitus, and certain rare genetic conditions.
There are no screening tests for pancreatic cancer available at this time. However, if you have any of the risk factors listed above, you should talk to your doctor about being screened for pancreatic cancer.