Pancreatic Cancer Facts 2012

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  • Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
  • This year, an estimated 43,920 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States, and approximately 37,390 will die from the disease.
  • Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which the survival rate has not improved substantially over 40 years.
  • Pancreatic cancer has the lowest relative survival rate of all the cancers tracked by both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute: 94% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis and only 6% will survive more than five years. 74% of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
  • The average life expectancy after diagnosis with metastatic disease is just five to seven months.
  • Risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include family history of the disease, age, chronic or hereditary pancreatitis, smoking, obesity and recent-onset diabetes. These and other risk factors are still being investigated.
  • 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. In adenocarcinoma, the most common type of pancreatic cancer, surgical removal of the tumor is possible in only approximately 15% of patients. Chemotherapy or chemotherapy with radiation may be offered before or after surgery. Chemotherapy or other drug therapies are typically offered to patients whose tumors cannot be removed surgically. There are three FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma: fluorouracil (5-FU), gemcitabine (Gemzar®), and erlotinib (Tarceva®). Everolimus (Afinitor®) and sunitinib (Sutent®) have been approved to treat advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, which account for less than 5% of all pancreatic tumors.
  • 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 $96.7 million on pancreatic cancer research in 2010. This represents just approximately 2% of the NCI’s approximate $5 billion annual cancer research budget for that year.

Source for statistics: American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2012 and NCI Funded Research Portfolio, (Accessed May 2011)