Early detection is key

They say prevention is better than cure. In an ideal world this would be the best method to reduce mortality rates of all diseases. However, we live in a blissfully imperfect world where we get sick and depend on medication to relieve unwanted symptoms. For some conditions, like cancer, any therapy used is more effective if diagnosed early. Doctors have publicized early detection methods for a lot of illnesses. To detect a small lump in the breast, women are encouraged to perform self examinations as well as mammograms after a certain age. To detect small polyps in the colon, a colonoscopy is suggested. So what about pancreatic cancer? There must be an accurate screening test to determine this deadly disease, right?

The answer is a resounding no or at best not yet.

Blood test

The only FDA approved non invasive test is the CA 19-9 test. Levels of this protein are known to be elevated in pancreatic cancer patients (state if its in blood). However, it is not sensitive enough to diagnose the disease at early stages. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, other methods to determine the presence of cancerous pancreatic tissue include CT scans, MRI and endoscopic ultrasound. But none of these methods detect early stage cancer. By the time these screens are done, the patient’s tumor has most likely spread to other areas in the body. Since surgery is the only current traditional action that can increase patient survival, improving early detection methods can literally be the deciding factor between life and death.

4 thoughts on “Early detection is key

  1. To be entirely honest the ca-19-9 test is not always indicative either. My levels are still really low and not alarming. I was stage IV and those markers never showed up in my blood work. So truly it is sad that no test is a good indicator. You are right, most of the time it is found way too late hence why our survival rates are so dismal.

      • You are so right! That’s why we all need to push the medical community to work harder on pancreatic cancer! And I am definitely hanging in there! I plan to hang in there for a really really,long time :)

      • I definitely agree with you. The good news is that more and more people are becoming aware of the disease everyday especially those in a position to take specific actions towards a cure and/or at least early detection.

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