Oncologist breaks down the challenges of pancreatic cancer

Dr. Uemura said there is research being done, especially on early detection.

Posted: Mar. 8, 2019 7:57 PM
Updated: Mar. 8, 2019 8:18 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The long-time host of Jeopardy, Alex Trebek, is beginning his fight against advanced pancreatic cancer. He made the announcement earlier this week.

It's a disease that is hard to catch early and according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, it's now the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

Dr. Marc Uemura, with the Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, said it's a highly lethal condition because there are often no early symptoms or screenings for it. 

He said the symptoms that do eventually surface are nonspecific and may include weight loss, abdominal pain, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. Only about 20 percent of patients are diagnosed at an early stage, making surgery an option. Most are diagnosed at a later stage, where he said the disease is incurable.

He said it's a cancer that comes back after being treated and those treatments include chemotherapy and local radiation.

Uemura said there is research being done, especially on early detection.

"Maybe in five years or 10 years we may have a blood test that can detect a protein or circulating tumor cells or something like that that may allow us to do screening for pancreas cancer, but (now) we don't," said Uemura.

He said smoking and obesity are risk factors for pancreas cancer, along with a family history of cancer.

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