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Navigating Pancreatic Cancer: Signs, Symptoms, and Resources

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month — an opportunity to educate people about “the world’s toughest cancer.”

Pancreatic cancer has earned this nickname because “it typically spreads rapidly to nearby organs,” according to the Mayo Clinic, and is also rarely detected in its early stages.

Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is often terminal. Survival rates for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined are low: “The one-year relative survival rate is 20 percent, and the five-year rate is seven percent,” writes the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. The organization adds: “While pancreatic cancer survival rates have been improving from decade to decade, the disease is still considered largely incurable.”

Pancreatic cancer signs and symptoms

Early pancreatic cancer symptoms in women and pancreatic cancer symptoms in men are generally nonexistent or difficult to detect, but there are still some warning signs and symptoms to keep in mind.

“Most people with pancreatic cancer will have jaundice as one of their first symptoms,” writes the American Cancer Society. Jaundice is marked by the yellowing of patients’ eyes and skin. Other signs include “pain in the belly or back and unintended weight.” Those diagnosed may also have little or no appetite.

Of course, these symptoms could be related to a range of other diseases. “Having one or more of the symptoms below does not mean you have pancreatic cancer. In fact, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions,” explains the American Cancer Society.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network notes there is a link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer. “Diabetes may be either a risk factor or a symptom of pancreatic cancer,” the organization explains. They continue: “Pancreatic cancer is more likely to occur in people who have long-standing diabetes (over five years) than in people who do not have diabetes. Also, research studies suggest that new-onset diabetes in people over 50 may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer.”

Pancreatic cancer resources

Given pancreatic cancer’s reputation as the world’s toughest cancer, there is a wide network of resources and support available for patients.

AARP, for example, provides tips for prevention on their website. Chief among them: Quit smoking. “About 20 to 30 percent of pancreatic cancers are thought to be caused by cigarette smoking.” Also, stay fit. “Very overweight people are about 20 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.”

Organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PCAN) offer everything from research to patient advocacy. PCAN hosts fundraisers, runs support groups, and helps patients identify clinical trials.

There are also resources to help deal with pancreatic cancer treatment costs and other expenses. Fifth Season Financial’s Funds for Living Program allows patients to receive an advance on their life insurance policy — money that can be used in any manner with no restrictions. Further, Fifth Season Financial handles all future premium payments, and, in 90 percent of Funds For Living cases, funds remain in the policy to pass on to beneficiaries. If you’re facing advanced pancreatic cancer, you shouldn’t have to worry about your finances, too. The goal of Fifth Season’s Funds For Living Program is to prevent financial hardship so patients can focus on what matters most: their health and quality of life. To learn more about the program, contact us today at (866) 459-1271 or by visiting

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