Preventing Pancreatic Cancer – What You Can Do

It sounds like a terrible thing to say or even think, but say the two words pancreatic and cancer to anyone and it strikes fear in the hearts of anyone diagnosed with the dreaded and deadly cancer and their loved ones for the simple fact that it is known as the cancer with one of the lowest survival rates.

Granted, cancer of the pancreas affects a very low percentage of the population, which is a good thing given the purported survival rates of around 5%, it is still a cancer to be reckoned with. and why is this form of cancer so much more deadly than other forms?

Well the reasons are just the physiological attributes of the disease itself, but also factored into the death rate is the fact that this type of cancer is not usually caught until it is already late stage and too late for effective and aggressive intervention that has chances of reversing the damage already done.

Curiously, the pancreas is not one that is given much thought by most of us. We tend to think more of our vital organs as being the kidneys, heart, lungs, colon, and other organs that are paid a lot of attention in health education and common knowledge.

But this truth may not hold much longer, since pancreatic cancer has been in the spotlight as of late with public figures being diagnosed and treated for the disease. Patrick Swayze was probably one of the most notable figures that came forward and publicly acknowledged his struggles with this cancer.

Steve Jobs, the head of the very successful company Apple (if you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past five years you may not know that the iPod, iPhone and iMac were his creations), also was diagnosed with the disease several years ago and was then proclaimed to be cancer free, only to fall ill again recently for reasons not totally understood that may or may not be related to a relapse of the illness.

Randy Pausch, who wrote the book I just recently read entitled the Last Lecture, and which almost certainly brings a tear to most people’s eye, just passed away this past July, after a battle of a few years with this disease.

More recently, the first female Justice of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was diagnosed with the cancer and underwent surgery for what doctors say is a very early diagnoses of the cancer. the reason the tumor on her pancreas was spotted so early on was due to a CT scan that caught it, which isn’t the norm for most people.

Before we get into how to help potentially prevent pancreatic cancer, let’s talk about why the pancreas is an important organ first. the pancreas is actually a sort of multipurpose organ in that it secretes both hormones and vital enzymes that play roles in regulating digestion, the secretion of insulin, and glucogen.

Because of the roles of the pancreas, the symptoms for cancer of this organ are relatively vague and are often misunderstood as more general maladies, and more like annoyances than anything dire. Some of these symptoms include depression, jaundice, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.

Many times there are no outward symptoms at all that would make it obvious to the sufferer that something is seriously amiss. this makes it tricky to diagnose, and tricky to treat since it is usually far advanced when finally found out.

Now, let’s talk about what you might be able to do to help prevent pancreatic cancer from happening to you. not coincidentally, you will find that the two major risk factors that have thus been identified that are within your control to change also will likely increase your risks for a multitude of other types of cancers. one of them is smoking. Smoking can increase your odds of developing this disease. the second it obesity. These are both major contributing factors suspected in a myriad of other types of cancers.

Diets high in fruits and vegetables and low in red meats may help, and some holistic practitioners recommend the supplementation of digestive enzymes, especially when eating hard to digest foods such as meats and some fats, to help preserve the vital enzymes produced by this organ.

Because exercise helps us maintain a healthy weight and regulate our blood sugar, exercise is another recommendation that may help you prevent pancreatic cancer, but as you can see, the people who have publicly announced their struggles are all thin, which begs the question, what’s the common denominator, if any?

Hopefully there will be better information on pancreatic cancer in the future and more clear cut guidelines about how we can prevent it with the variables that are in our control, but right now the only three things, only two of which are in our control, are smoking, weight and genetics. My hunch is that with the increased public interest in this disease, there may be a lot more research poured into the prevention aspect as well as the treatments.


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