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Why is pancreatic cancer almost always terminal?

By January 10, 2009 - 6:21pm
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I was watching am excerpt of the Patrick Swayze interview where he talks about his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and saying he thinks living for another five years is "wishful thinking". He is very brave yet realistic about this cancer that usually kills 95% of people who have it within a few years.

Why is this? Survival rates of breast, cervical and other cancers are fairly good if caught early. Is pancreatic cancer so hard to detect? Is it so rare that there are no "standard" annual tests like there are for cancers of the breast or cervix? If the survival rate is so low, why are we not routinely checked for it?

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HERWriter Guide

Anon - Thank you for writing. I'm sorry to hear your mom has pancreatic cancer, and glad that you are providing support for her.
Cancer treatment facilities throughout the US are treating pancreatic cancer and conducting clinical trials. Since you asked specifically about the results from Cancer Treatment Centers of America you may want to visit their page on "Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Statistics and Results" for their company. For more specific information please see the direct contact information. You can find the page here: http://www.cancercenter.com/pancreatic-cancer/outcomes.cfm

Best wishes to you, and your mother. Pat

February 9, 2010 - 5:24pm

Doug, I'm so glad you found us at EmpowHer.

Way to go for those first 15 1/2 months! I'm glad to hear you're fighting like hell.

Here's a link to the site Doug is talking about:


That is the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and it is a large and very well-organized site. There is information for patients, for doctors, for researchers and for caregivers. There are Congressional updates, event listings and a calendar. There is information about volunteering, about fundraising and a link to their store, where you can buy awareness T-shirts and baseball caps and so on. You can also buy Professor Randy Pausch's book, "The Last Lecture." He is the professor who became so popular on YouTube and Oprah (with Dr. Oz) as he battled pancreatic cancer.

And there are also awareness bracelets, which are purple (like the yellow Livestrong bracelets or the pink bracelets for breast cancer research). You can help spread the word just by wearing one.

Here's a link on how to get the word to your senator or representative:


Take care, Doug, and thanks for writing. Here's to another 15 1/2 months and beyond.

May 15, 2009 - 9:08am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Diane Porter)


My mother has pancreatic cancer. She is in stage 4 and was diagnosed at the end of September but many additional tests were ran after that so treatment with gemcitabine did not begin until around NOVEMBER i think. She is on a clinical trial which is using standard of care (gemcitabine) and a parp inhibitor which is experimental. After 8 weeks on this regimen, she had a CT scan and her tumors shrank!! However, I am hearing many patients with this disease getting treated at Cancer Care Centers of America and having great success. Are these patients stage 4 or are they in an earlier more treatable stage?

February 9, 2010 - 12:14am
EmpowHER Guest

Pnacretic Cancer is one of the least funded cancers yet is the 4 leading in death rate. Go to Pancan.org and learn how you can help increase awarness of the need for more funding for research for a cure. With the avg. number of diagnosed cases being approx. 37,600 annually, this is low as compared to many other cancers so the funding for researching for a cure is also very low however the death rate should being over 34,000 dying within the first year of diagnosis show prompt more attention and funding. Get on your senators and legisators to support bills for more funding to go towards the search for a cure for this dreadful disease. PanCan.org tells you how to go about doing this. I am 15-1/2 months into my personal battle with this horrible cancer and figthing like hell with the help of Cancer Treatment Centers of America to stay alive long enough for a cure to be found.

West Jefferson NC

May 14, 2009 - 2:48pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Keep up the fight! My mom is 11 months into her battle... We are all praying for a cure!


March 22, 2011 - 10:39am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to angelamarielynch)

My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007. She was told there was no cure by her doctors. A friend told her to contact a clinic in Lakeland, Florida and see what they had to say.
She ended up having surgery called the "Whipple Procedure". It was not an easy process. She was declared to be in stage 4. after her surgery. That was 5 years ago. She was 80 years old at the time. At 85, she is cancer free.

March 24, 2012 - 9:44pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Can you please tell me what clinic, and perhaps even the physician?
(Lakeland Regional Medical Center?)
I know someone in the area who needs to be seen pretty quickly. Thanks so much in advance for your response.

May 1, 2012 - 2:45pm

According to the American Cancer Society, there is a poor outlook for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer because:

"...very few of these cancers are found early. Because the pancreas is located deep inside the body, early tumors cannot be seen or felt by health care providers during routine physical exams. Patients usually have no symptoms until the cancer has spread to other organs. Right now, there are no blood tests to find early cancers of the pancreas."

January 11, 2009 - 8:24am
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