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Published on April 16, 2014

Blood Test May Help Identify Early Pancreatic Cancer 

Pancreatic cancer and blood tests

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of
cancer death in the United States.

For years, doctors have been unable to identify pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages. As a result, most patients don’t find out they have it until it has progressed, when treatment options and prognosis are extremely poor. However, those days could soon be behind us. 

According to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, a group of Danish researchers developed a new blood test that may help identify pancreatic cancer in its early stages. Although the test has produced a high number of false positive results (meaning that patients might be told they have pancreatic cancer when they do not), researchers believe they can provide a more accurate diagnosis by combining this blood test with another one. 

Regardless of what the future holds for this particular test, investigators are hopeful they’re on the right path to helping patients beat the disease, especially since there is presently no screening test for this aggressive cancer. 

Currently, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It has developed a bad reputation and for good reason. Pancreatic cancer spreads quickly, treatment options are limited and most patients aren’t diagnosed until it has advanced to a later stage when mortality rates are high. Additionally, the only chance for a cure is through surgical removal of a large portion of the pancreas and even that isn’t hopeful. For many, surgery isn’t an option if the cancer has significantly progressed. And when it is, the chances that your doctor can remove all of the cancer are slim. 

Although symptoms don’t often appear until the cancer has spread, symptoms to look for include upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), loss of appetite, weight loss, depression and blood clots. 

While anyone can develop pancreatic cancer, you are considered high risk if you are overweight or obese, African-American or if you have diabetes, chronic inflammation, a history of smoking or a family history of the disease or a genetic syndrome that can increase your chances of developing cancer. 

While some risk factors are out of your control, you can take steps to lower your risk by quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and following a healthy, high-fiber and low-fat diet. 

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System Cancer Services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org. You can also call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) to request an appointment with a physician who cares for cancer patients.

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