With only an estimated 53,000 new cases reported in the United States annually, pancreatic cancer is far from being the most commonly diagnosed form of this disease. This diagnosis, however, can be one of the most troubling for patients. With an estimated five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, this form of cancer has the dubious distinction of being one of the deadliest. In fact, an estimated 41,000 Americans die from this cause each year.
Considering the discouraging statistics surrounding pancreatic cancer, it should come as little surprise researchers are working around the clock to better understand this form of cancer. They are also dedicated to finding ways to better detect this disease and beat it if it is diagnosed. A recent study into the role pancreatic cysts may play in the cancer’s development is helping enhance understanding.
To gain insights into the significance of pancreatic cysts as a precursor for cancer, researchers recently looked into the records of more than 500,000 patients. Of that large number, nearly 760 were diagnosed with pancreatic cysts. Over the course of time, just under 20 were ultimately diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In the much larger, non-cyst group, more than 1,200 were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer down the road.
The relatively high percentage of people in the cyst group who received a diagnosis of cancer eventually shows that cysts can serve as a bellwether for pancreatic cancer, researchers say. In fact, those with cysts were found to be about 19.6 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those without.
While more research is required to better understand the role pancreatic cysts may play in an eventual diagnosis of cancer, the current findings are significant. If the link between cysts and cancer holds up more readily under study, it could serve as a way for doctors to help prevent the eventual formation of pancreatic cancer.
At present, pancreatic cancer is among the hardest forms of the disease to detect in its earlier stages. The disease presents with very few symptoms at first, if any. Widespread screening tests are also not available for this form of the disease.
People who are diabetic, have suffered from pancreatitis and have a family history of pancreatic cancer are among those at risk for this disease. If pancreatic cancer is a concern, it is advised that a discussion with a personal healthcare provider take place to assess personal risks. If caught early, pancreatic cancer can sometimes be successfully treated.