Raising Awareness Of Pancreatic Cancer

By Ronald G. Rios
Middlesex County Freeholder
Chairperson, Committee of Public Health and Education

According to the National Cancer Institute, pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in more than 29,000 Americans every year.

In Middlesex County, statistics from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services indicate that from 2001 to 2005, there were 450 cases of pancreatic cancer, and 83 percent died from the disease.

Pancreatic cancer is serious. It kills. And I urge residents to educate themselves and others about this disease.

The Middlesex County Public Health Department is sponsoring a walk to raise awareness about cancer of the pancreas. This free family event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 6 at Middlesex County College in Edison.

Won’t you come out and join us?

Interested walkers can contact Padma Arvind, at 732-745-3140 or by e-mail at padma.arvind@co.middlesex.nj.us or register for free at www.cinjfoundation.org

Some other things you should know about cancer of the pancreas:

  • The American Cancer Society states that the lifetime risk of having cancer of the pancreas is about 1 in 76.  However, the chance of getting the disease can be changed by certain risk factors.
  • Risk factors that affect cancer of the pancreas include: age; gender; race, smoking; diet; obesity and lack of exercise; diabetes; long term inflammation of the pancreas; cirrhosis of the liver; working with pesticides, dyes, and chemicals; family history; gene changes; and having too much stomach acid or having the bacteria H. pylori.
  • Signs and symptoms of cancer of the pancreas include: pain in the upper stomach or upper back; yellow skin, eyes, and dark urine (jaundice); feeling weak; loss of appetite; nausea; vomiting; and rapid weight loss.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your doctor.  Symptoms may or may not be a sign of pancreatic cancer.  If you have these symptoms and a family history of pancreatic and/or ovarian cancers, you are at higher risk; share this information with your doctor.

You can reduce your risk of cancer of the pancreas by avoiding smoking. People who smoke increase their risk of cancer of the pancreas by two to three times.  It is also important to maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, exercise more, manage your diabetes, know your family history, and maintain annual check-ups with your doctor.

I urge residents to talk to their doctor about this disease.  Ask him or her about testing for cancer of the pancreas. Your health care provider could perform a physical exam, order lab and imaging tests such as ultrasounds or CT scans. Also gene testing can be performed in people with a family history of the disease.

For additional information about cancer of the pancreas or other cancers please visit the following websites:

Education and early prevention are always the keys to healthy living. Come out to the walk on June 6, call the Public Health Department or see your doctor. It may save a life.

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