A local oncologist says a report that pancreatic cancer will be the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States in 2030 is not written in stone.
“It’s a very negative report,” said Vincent Vinciguerra, MD, a medical attendant specializing in gastrointestinal oncology at Monter Cancer Center, part of the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute. “The issue is it could well happen, however, we’re seeing changes in the way we understand pancreatic cancer, so it’s my belief that in the future we’re going to get a better handle on how to treat the disease.”
Doctors are looking into a patient’s family history for cancer coupled with detecting pre-malignant conditions for the disease, such as cysts on the pancreas, to help catch the disease before it develops, said Dr. Vinciguerra.
Lifestyle factors such as obesity, diabetes, nutrition, smoking and exercise are also being looked at as modifiable links to pancreatic cancer.
There is currently no screening test for pancreatic cancer, which has a low survival rate.
“Pancreatic cancer is considered the silent killer because it’s often found in a more advanced state because of the fact that it may not cause symptoms initially,” explained Dr. Vinciguerra. “Patients are walking around with these tumors in their pancreas for months and possibly years. And then we diagnose them when they present with disease that has spread to the liver.”
Presently, pancreatic cancer is the fourth most prevalent cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., behind lung, colorectal and breast cancers. The report by Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PCAN) says that lung cancer will remain the top killer in 2030, followed by pancreatic, liver and colorectal cancers.
PCAN researchers say expected changes in demographics, including an aging population, an increase in high-risk minority populations and lack of funding for research on the disease account, in part, for their findings.
The report will be published in the June 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research.