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Hope Is On The Horizon For Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Pancreatic cancer often goes unknown until it's too late. NewYork-Presbysterian is one of only three designated comprehensive cancer centers in New York State, and is helping patients fight the silent killer.
Pancreatic cancer often goes unknown until it's too late. NewYork-Presbysterian is one of only three designated comprehensive cancer centers in New York State, and is helping patients fight the silent killer. Photo Credit: istock.com_designer491

For those fighting the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, hospitals like NewYork-Presbyterian are providing hope and treatment during difficult times.

Deemed a "silent killer" due to its lack of warning symptoms, pancreatic cancer is often too advanced at diagnosis to be effectively treated. As a result, more than 90 percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within five years of diagnosis and 7.7 percent survive beyond five years. However, earlier intervention in people at risk and the development of new therapies for pancreatic cancer offer some promise to save more lives.

While the exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop the disease. For instance, smokers are two times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared to non-smokers. Obesity is another significant risk factor, as well as diabetes, a family history of pancreatic cancer or chronic pancreatitis.

Additionally, people with certain gene abnormalities have a higher risk for pancreatic cancer. For instance, BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, developments long associated with breast and ovarian cancers, have been found to be linked to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common type of pancreatic cancer. Women and men who carry BRCA gene mutations are estimated to be at three to four times the risk for pancreatic cancer. For this reason, BRCA-positive pancreatic cancer patients are encouraged to undergo screening for ovarian and breast cancers. Additionally, a genetic disorder known as Lynch syndrome has been associated with colorectal cancer as well as pancreatic cancer and cancers of the endometrium, ovary and small intestine.

Those with a strong family history or genetic abnormalities associated with pancreatic cancer may be monitored for symptoms through endoscopic ultrasound or blood tests that screen for a tumor marker for pancreatic cancer. If cancer is discovered, current treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. New approaches to pancreatic cancer treatments are constantly being explored in clinical trials, and targeted therapies that attack specific pancreatic cancer cells and immune therapies can be used to harness a person's immune system to fight the disease.

Because pancreatic cancer is curable in its earliest stages, early diagnosis and treatment at a comprehensive cancer center is crucial. At these centers, patients have access to a multidisciplinary team with extensive experience in assessing and designing individual treatment strategies.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center have been designated as Centers of Excellence for both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer care by the National Pancreas Foundation. The designation recognizes centers that provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary care to patients undergoing treatment for pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, respectively. NewYork-Presbyterian is the only health system in New York to receive both designations at more than one location. Physicians at our cancer centers in Westchester and Hudson Valley work collaboratively with CUMC to treat all cancers.

NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the largest and most comprehensive hospitals in the nation, ranked New York’s No. 1 hospital for the 16th consecutive year, and No. 6 in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report. Affiliated with two academic medical colleges – Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian brings together internationally recognized researchers and clinicians to develop and implement the latest approaches for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center is one of only three NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in New York State. NewYork-Presbyterian provides comprehensive cancer care at all of our locations across the New York Metro area including Westchester County and the Hudson Valley. Learn more at nyp.org/cancer .

Daily Voice produced this article as part of a paid Content Partnership with our advertiser, NewYork-Presbyterian

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