According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), pancreatic cancer represents three percent of all cancer incidences in the United States. It is dubbed by many as a “silent killer,” as it amounts to seven percent of cancer deaths in the country.
The silent killer
Pancreatic cancer is called as such since the disease is difficult to diagnose. The Sandler-Kenner Foundation explains, “Since the pancreas is located deep inside the body, detecting early tumors during routine health examinations is problematic.” This is further compounded by the fact that the cancer oftentimes does not present symptoms until it has metastasized to other parts of the body. As such, by the time the symptoms have manifested, it may already be too late for most patients as surgical extraction of the tumors may no longer be possible. In fact, the five-year survival rate for the cancer used to be less than five percent, making it one of the “incurable” forms of cancer.
For 2017, the ACS says that 53,670 Americans are to be diagnosed with the cancer. Of those who were already diagnosed, 43,090 are expected to perish from the disease within the year.
An improved survival rate
This July, the Office for National Statistics of England released a study that talked about the improved incidence rates of pancreatic cancer. The five-year survival rate which used to be at a steady five percent in England has improved to seven percent.
While the two percent improvement in the survival rate may be small in the grand scheme of the disease, this actually means that there are more people who are able to survive the disease. The study took a closer look at pancreatic cancer patients in England from 2004 to 2015. They discovered that 364 more people lived on for five years after diagnosis from 2011 to 2015, in comparison with the rates derived from 2004 to 2008.
The increase in the survival rate is partly attributed to the role of early diagnosis, particularly those who have a family history of the cancer. More people are turning to genetic testing to see if they have the markers that are indicative of the cancer. As such, those who tested positive are able to be more conscious of their health, and are able to detect the cancer before it has spread to other parts of the body. Another form of testing is the endoscopic ultrasound, which is normally used on someone who has a strong family history of the cancer.
What this means
While the increase is already significant on its own, the medical community is still working hard on trying to find ways to combat the disease. The seven percent survival rate is still far below the rates of other curable cancers, such as breast cancer at 93 percent.
Yet the increase is still indicative that the latest treatments and tests are helping to curb the cancer. After all, when it comes to cancer, even a small win already amounts for something significant. It is a sign that the medical community is on the right track.