An estimated 45,220 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S. in 2013, and 38,460 died from the disease.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over nearly 40 years.
Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.
Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. 94% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only 6% will survive more than five years. 75% of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
The average life expectancy after diagnosis with metastatic disease is just three to six months.
Few risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer are defined. Family history of the disease, smoking, age, and diabetes are risk factors.
Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague symptoms that could indicate many different conditions within the abdomen or gastrointestinal tract.
Symptoms include pain (usually abdominal or back pain), weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes.
Treatment options for pancreatic cancer are limited. Surgical removal of the tumor is possible in only approximately 15% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Chemotherapy or chemotherapy together with radiation is typically offered to patients whose tumors cannot be removed surgically. Only three drugs are FDA-approved for the treatment of pancreatic cancer: fluorouracil (5-FU), gemcitabine (Gemzar®), and erlotinib (Tarceva®).
Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death largely because there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when surgical removal of the tumor is still possible.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) spent an estimated $89.4 million on pancreatic cancer research in 2009. This represented a mere 2% of the NCI’s approximate $5 billion cancer research budget for that year.