Pancreatic Cancer FAQs

Pancreatic Cancer Questions & Answers

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive type of cancer and one of the most fatal types. Below are the answers to several frequently asked questions about pancreatic cancer.

If allowed to progress untreated, pancreatic cancer can spread to tissues located close by and even beyond. It’s common for it to migrate to the nearby lymph nodes but can even reach other organs, such as the liver, gallbladder and lungs.  

Pancreatic cancer can go years without being detected. This is because the signs and symptoms don’t often show up until cancer has spread to other parts of the body, making treatment options and therapies more limited. 

There’s no one cause for pancreatic cancer. Instead, a number of risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of getting pancreatic cancer. These risk factors include things such as heavy alcohol use, obesity and exposure to harmful cancer-causing chemicals. 

There isn’t one treatment for pancreatic cancer that’s considered better than all the others. The treatment that’s best for your condition is largely determined by what type of pancreatic cancer you have and what stage your cancer is in at the time of your diagnosis and treatment.  

While there’s no way to prevent pancreatic cancer, there are actions you can take now to lower your overall risk. Some of these actions include:

  • Stop smoking — quitting smoking is one of the most impactful ways you can reduce your chances of getting pancreatic cancer
  • Maintain a healthy weight — diet and exercise are key factors to lowering your overall risk. It’s especially important to moderate your intake of red meat and sugary drinks. Try centering your diet around fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Limit alcohol use — excessive alcohol use can sometimes lead to chronic pancreatitis, which can ultimately lead to pancreatic cancer
  • Avoid harmful chemicals — avoiding harmful chemicals known to cause cancer (carcinogens) is a key action you can take to lower your risk

Some of the early warning signs for pancreatic cancer include: 

  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Pain in the abdomen or belly
  • Unexpected weight loss or appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes
  • Gallbladder or liver enlargement

Pancreatic cancer is so deadly largely because it can go undetected for a long period of time. Because of the pancreas’s central position in the body, pancreatic cancer can more easily spread to other vital organs. The chances of recurrence are also more likely, even if the initial cancer is successfully removed. 

There are four main stages of pancreatic cancer. As a rule of thumb, the lower the stage number, the less your cancer has spread. What stage your cancer is in can be determined by its size and whether it’s spread to your nearby lymph nodes or distant organs in the body.  

Pancreatic Cancer Resources

Mercy offers a variety of cancer patient support and resources to nourish your mind and spirit while we fight your cancer.