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Pancreatic Cancer Awareness (Week 1)

October 30, 2014

Spotlighting different awareness topics helps to educate the community and it reminds people that these conditions exist. This month this writer will introduce several different health awareness issues for the month of November. It is this writer’s prayer that each week you will pick up your copy of the Milwaukee Times and share these articles with a friend. This week, the attention will be placed on raising awareness of pancreatic cancer. Primary source for this article is the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation. What is the pancreas? The pancreas is an oblong organ that lies behind the stomach and extends across the abdomen. The shape of the pancreas resembles a letter “J” lying on its side with the hook pointing down. The pancreas plays an important role in digestion with specialized cells that correspond to the pancreas’ two main functions: exocrine functions and endocrine functions. Exocrine cells are linked to a duct system and produce digestive enzymes that are secreted into the duodenum during digestion. Endocrine cells secrete hormones such as insulin and glucagon in order to help regulate metabolism and balance the amount of sugar in the blood. During digestion, the epithelial lining of the small intestine releases the hormones secretin and cholecystokinin (CCK). These two hormones stimulate the production of digestive enzymes by the pancreatic exocrine cells. This combination of digestive juices flows through the pancreatic duct system into the duodenum to aid in the digestion process. Most pancreatic tumors form in the exocrine epithelial cells. Pancreatic cancer is the number “4” cancer killer in the US and the only 1 of the 4 that does not have a known cure. The lack of early detection methods and research continues to slow progress towards a cure. There is no known cure for this deadly disease and over 42,400 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year. In the last 5 years more than 210,000 people have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and over 92 percent of those individuals have passed away during the first year of their diagnosis. While only 5 percent of those living past the first year live to the fifth year and 3 percent of those will succumb to the disease sometime beyond that point. Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over the last 25 years. Those that make it past the first year have been known to live significantly longer today than those diagnosed before 2006. There is no known specific cause of pancreatic cancer and it is very difficult to diagnose and detect in its early stage. While it does not necessarily attack a specific age group patients in recent years have ranged from 19–85 that are afflicted with pancreatic cancer. Previous research of pancreatic cancer patients put the percentages of patients at the older end but in the last couple of years that has changed dramatically while changing the age range significantly. People who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer even at an early stage face a significant risk of recurrence and early death. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer vary and sometimes do not occur until the disease is in an advanced stage. That is why it is so difficult to diagnose and detect. The signs and symptoms may include: • Upper abdominal pain • Lower back pain • Yellowing of skin and whites of eyes • Loss of appetite • Significant loss of weight in the first 30 -60 days • Depression • Digestive issues • Itching How can you help? You can support the World Pancreatic Cancer Day Thunderclap. On Thursday, November 13, 2014 organizations and in- dividuals around the world will mark the first ever World Pancreatic Cancer Day. You can get involved by joining the World Pancreatic Cancer Day Thunderclap, which will blast out a message across social media about the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Next Week: Osteoporo- sis Awareness The writer does not assume re- sponsibility in any way for read- ers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. This information is for edu- cational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. You are encouraged to discuss with your doctor any questions or health concerns you may have. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.