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Ask a Doc - Is Pancreatic Cancer Always Fatal?

November 3rd, 2015

I have heard that pancreatic cancer is always fatal. Is this true?

This is a commonly held myth about pancreatic cancer. When we refer to "pancreatic cancer," we are generally talking about pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths among U.S. men and women. The difficulty in treating this disease is that it typically only produces vague symptoms that are often ignored or attributed to less-serious conditions. As a result, only about 20 percent of people are candidates for surgery when they are diagnosed.
The main treatment options are chemotherapy (with or without radiation) and/or surgery, with surgery being the only chance to achieve a cure. If surgical resection is complete and the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, up to 25 percent of people can live at least five years after surgery, and long-term survival of at least 10 years is possible.
-Dr. Jacob Dowden, Hepatobiliary and General Surgeon

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