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Pancreatic cancer is responsible for around 7% of all cancer mortalities, and is marginally more common in men than it is in women. One’s average lifetime risk of developing the disease is 1 in 641https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/about/key-statistics.html.
Common tests for pancreatic cancer include CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs2https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html. It is important to note, however, that CT scans expose you to potentially harmful radiation3https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/medical-x-ray-imaging/what-are-radiation-risks-ct.
In general, pancreatic cancer is asymptomatic until the tumor is quite large, or perhaps until it has metastasized. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include4https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html:
It is important to note that many of the above symptoms could also be caused by other conditions.
If you are having any of the above symptoms you need to talk to a doctor about the appropriate diagnostic work up. The Ezra scan is a screening test for asymptomatic individuals and it is not designed to diagnose existing or suspected cancers.
It is difficult for researchers to pinpoint precisely what causes pancreatic cancer, though they do know that pancreatic cancer originates in genetic changes, or mutations, found in the DNA of normal pancreatic cells. Sometimes, these mutations can occur in oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes, which are the genes in charge of when cells grow, divide, or die. Such mutations can be at least in part responsible for cancer and can be inherited from one’s parents or picked up randomly during one’s life5https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html.
Genetic mutations inherited from our parents could be responsible for up to 10% of all pancreatic cancers. Some genes known to result in an increased risk of pancreatic cancer when mutated include:
Other risk factors known to increase your likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer include:
If it is suspected you have pancreatic cancer, your doctor may first perform a physical exam, feeling your gallbladder and liver for swelling and checking your skin and the whites of your eyes for jaundice. If your exam turns out to be abnormal, it’s highly likely that your next step will involve an imaging test, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, PET scan, or MRI6https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html.
A 2017 study on a large population made up of diverse patients showed that MRI performed identically or better than PET, CT, or ultrasounds in detecting pancreatic cancers7https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0720048X17301535?via%3Dihub. Furthermore, MRIs don’t expose you to potentially damaging radiation, while PET and CT scans do8https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154877.php 9https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/medical-x-ray-imaging/what-are-radiation-risks-ct.
After a case of pancreatic cancer is detected, your doctor will have to take a biopsy of the tumor to pinpoint an exact diagnosis10https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/about-pancreatic-cancer/what-is-pancreatic-cancer/#signs. This can be performed a number of ways:
After analyzing your biopsy and imaging results, your doctor will assign a stage to your cancer, most likely based off the TNM system:
Blood tests also help in the diagnostic process, though they cannot tell you if you have pancreatic cancer, but rather help determine the best treatment route:
The best treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the nature of the disease and how far it has spread. Treatment options for the disease may include: surgery, radiation, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and ablation/embolization11https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/treating.html.
Please consult with a physician on treatment options as necessary.