Imagine being told that you have pancreatic cancer when you have a baby on the way. That’s exactly what happened to actress and television host, Maria Menounos. Having experienced unexplained pain for months, Maria decided to get a Prenuvo scan to further investigate the issue and get some answers. The Prenuvo scan revealed a 3.9mm mass on her pancreas, in which a subsequent biopsy confirmed that it was Stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor - a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Fortunately, it was caught early so Maria was given a good prognosis and had the tumor surgically removed, along with parts of her pancreas, spleen, a large fibroid and 17 lymph nodes.
Read more about Maria’s story here
Pancreatic cancer has become infamous after affecting some well-known public figures, including Alex Trebek, Steve Jobs and Jerry Springer. While Pancreatic cancer is not common, it is one of the deadliest types of cancer. The primary reason for this is because it is very difficult to detect early. Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer don’t usually show until it is advanced. At this point, once the cancer has metastasized, the 5-year survival rate becomes as low as 3%. So for those like Maria who are able to detect it early is truly life-changing ‒ the differences in health outcomes are like night and day. This is just another prime example of why early detection is so important.
What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in the pancreas mutate and multiply out of control, forming a tumor. Located between the stomach and spine, the pancreas is a gland in the abdomen responsible for making hormones that control blood-sugar levels and enzymes that help with digestion. As mentioned earlier, pancreatic cancer is not very common, accounting for only 3% of all cancers. However, the number of cases are on the rise with trends indicating that pancreatic cancer will be the second leading cause of death in the United States by 2030.
There are two types of cells in the pancreas:
- Endocrine pancreas cell makes hormones such as insulin and glucagon that are secreted into the bloodstream. They cluster together in many small groups, called islets, throughout the pancreas. When a tumor forms in one of these clusters, it’s called a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.
- Exocrine pancreas cells make enzymes that enter the intestine to help the body digest food.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors can be benign or malignant. They are much less common than pancreatic exocrine tumors and have a better prognosis.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer
Early pancreatic cancers often do not cause any signs or symptoms. However, by the time they do, the cancer has progressed and largely spread outside the pancreas. Some symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Belly or back pain
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood clots
- New-onset diabetes
Risk factors of pancreatic cancer
While the cause of pancreatic cancer is still unknown, there are some factors that may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer:
- Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
What is the survival rate of pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is known as one of the deadliest types of cancer because it is very difficult to diagnose early. During the early stages of pancreatic cancer, there are usually no signs or symptoms. However, by the time symptoms do appear, the cancer would have already spread to other parts of the body and sometimes, surgery no longer is an option. When pancreatic cancer is detected in its early stages, the 5-year survival rate is 44%. However, those who get a late diagnosis have a 5-year survival rate of only 3%.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors often have a better prognosis. If the tumor has not spread to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 95%. However, if it has spread to nearby tissue or distant areas of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 72% and 23% respectively.
Detecting pancreatic cancer with a Prenuvo scan
Pancreatic cancer can be detected with imaging tests like a Prenuvo scan. As there is currently no standardized test for early detection of pancreatic cancer, getting a Prenuvo scan can be a useful screening tool. One of the reasons contributing to the difficulty of diagnosing pancreatic cancer is that healthcare practitioners can’t feel your pancreas during routine exams. So getting an MRI like the Prenuvo scan allows physicians to visualize your internal organs and better understand what is happening.
Whether you’re experiencing unexplained chronic pain or simply want a baseline of your health, getting a preventative screening with a Prenuvo scan can help you improve your overall well-being. Contact our team to learn more about the Prenuvo scan.