Knowledge is power, and in the case of pancreatic cancer, knowledge is hope. Pancreatic cancer is the third highest cause of cancer death in the U.S., and the month of November is dedicated to spreading awareness of this disease. Through increased support to advance research and information to help people recognize the warning signs, November is providing hope to people who are or may be affected by pancreatic cancer.

Warning Signals

Pancreatic cancer can be a tricky one to detect because it often doesn’t show symptoms until after it has spread. Treatment outcomes improve the earlier the cancer is found. With that in mind, there are several warning signs to be aware of to help you catch it as early as possible. The pancreas is part of the digestive system, so most of the symptoms are ones you would expect with a digestive issue—abdominal and back pain, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and unintentional weight loss. Abdominal pain associated with pancreatic issues are typically described as moving from front to back. It can be difficult to notice a problem with the pancreas in routine exams because of where it is located—it is hard to see in imaging and hard to feel from the outside. However, pancreatic cancer can cause the gallbladder or liver to enlarge, both of which are much easier to see on imaging tests and for your doctor to feel. Jaundice is often the first clue that there is a problem with the pancreas. Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that is sometimes accompanied by dark urine, light-colored or greasy stools, or itchy skin.


The best defense against pancreatic cancer is to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, healthy weight, no smoking, and minimal alcohol. Still, there is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer. This is why it is important to know what to do and how to cope if a pancreatic cancer diagnosis ever comes. One of the first things will be determining the extent and severity of the cancer so that you and your doctor can begin discussing treatment options.

Cancer diagnosis carries with it a wide range of emotions, and each person is different, so don’t feel bad if you need to ask questions more than once or ask for further explanation. It will be helpful to understand what happens next and what to expect. It is important to establish a support system early on—people you trust who can offer emotional support, assistance, affirmation, encouragement, or financial support. Cancer diagnosis can affect every area of your life and can cause psychological issues for you and your family. Having a group of friends and family members to help you stay connected is vital. There are also many support groups for patients and family with people going through a similar experience who can lend support and help you not feel alone.

The next thing is to take care of yourself. You may consider seeing a dietician as digestive issues start to increase or a licensed trainer who can design a workout specific to you and your health needs. Studies have shown that proper diet and exercise will help reduce cancer-related fatigue, reduce psychological issues, and improve emotional wellbeing.

Spreading Awareness

50,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year in the U.S., making awareness an important effort. The mission of awareness is that more people would become knowledgeable of the disease and that research would be advanced to result in early detection and more lives saved. There are many ways you can help this November. Educate yourself on pancreatic cancer to help identify issues for yourself and for your family.

Wear purple! There are many online retailers who sell purple garb and donate a portion of the proceeds to pancreatic cancer research. You might consider sponsoring a purple event in your community or at your workplace and gathering donations for pancreatic cancer research or for pancreatic cancer patients where you live. If you or someone you know suffers from pancreatic cancer, you might consider sharing your story. Just remember, there is something you can do. You can start today with a visit to GI Associates. We can evaluate your risk factors and answer any questions about pancreatic cancer or other digestive issues. Schedule an appointment online at one of our three locations.

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