November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Targeting pancreatic cancer with LutatheraThis year, approximately 64,050 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the US, and of these, 4,800 were Florida residents.

Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, responsible for 3% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. In addition, a study published earlier this year found that diagnoses are rising faster among younger women, especially Black women, than among men of the same age.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Month and World Pancreatic Cancer Day is November 16. It’s extremely important to know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer, for yourself and your loved ones, in order to treat this stealthy disease as early as possible:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Pain in the abdomen and back
  • Digestive problems, like persistent indigestion and nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Changes in stools, like diarrhea, constipation or both
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes

Radiation and chemotherapy can be used before surgery to shrink tumors of the pancreas and “clean up” stray cancer cells that have moved into the normal tissue around the main tumor mass. This is called neoadjuvant therapy, and is especially important when the tumor can’t be removed at the time of discovery because it is too entwined with vital parts of the body. Sometimes surgery cannot be done at all, and in that case radiation and chemotherapy become the main, or primary, treatments.

Last year, a milestone in radiation therapy was reached at University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht when the first patients completed their full course of radiation therapy treatment with the Elekta Unity MR-Linac using Comprehensive Motion Management. UF Radiation Oncology unveiled its own Elekta Unity on July 21, 2022. Since that time, UF has employed the Unity to treat 19 patients with tumors involving the pancreas – primarily and adjuvantly.

“The 1.5-T MR-Linac allows us to visualize changes in tumors with each daily treatment,” said Robert Zlotecki, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair for clinical affairs. “This is particularly critical for patients with tumors in the pancreas, liver, prostate, gastrointestinal organs and urinary and reproductive tracts.”

For more information about pancreatic cancer, and steps you can take to assess and reduce your risk, visit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network® or the American Cancer Society.


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