Pancreatic Cancer, The Silent Killer

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Ronald Rios

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

As some of you may already know, November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.  This year the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation is asking everyone to wear purple throughout the month, to support those affected by and to help raise continued awareness of this disease.

Pancreatic Cancer has been called the silent killer, as it can be difficult to detect in its early stages.  Its symptoms have been known to mimic those of other illnesses, which can make it hard to diagnosis sometimes. These symptoms can include: pain in the upper stomach or back, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, rapid weight loss, fatigue, yellow skin or eyes, and dark urine.

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Of course these particular symptoms may not be the signs of pancreatic cancer, but early detection is important with any potential health condition.  If you are experiencing these or any troubling symptoms, please consult your doctor.  If you have a family history of pancreatic or ovarian cancers, share this information with your doctor as well, since this may put you at an even higher risk for this condition.

According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer for both men and women is about 1 in 72.  And that risk can be increased by other factors such as age, gender, race, smoking, diet, diabetes, long-term inflammation of the pancreas, cirrhosis of the liver, having too much stomach acid or having the bacteria H. pylori and family medical history.

One way to reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer is to avoid smoking. People who smoke can increase their risk of this and other cancers. It also is important to eat a healthy diet, exercise, manage your diabetes, be aware of your family history and maintain annual check-ups with your doctor.

The past two years the Middlesex County Public Health Department and the Middlesex County Cancer Coalition have sponsored Pancreatic Cancer walks.  Over $6,000 in donations were raised to benefit pancreatic research at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, but this is just a start.  I would like to encourage you to wear a purple ribbon or the color purple throughout the month of November and help bring attention to Pancreatic Cancer awareness. Increased awareness, education and early prevention are key if we are going to control the number of fatalities from pancreatic cancer. The more we know about its causes and symptoms, the closer we get to finding a cure.

For additional information about pancreatic or other cancers, please visit the following Web sites:

http://njcancer.gov

http://www.cinj.org

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer

http://www.cancer.gov


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