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Group studying if there’s link between pancreatic cancer, adult-onset diabetes

Here’s an alarming number: Only 10% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer live five years or longer. Now, one group is hoping to make that number higher.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is exploring the link between pancreatic cancer and diabetes, and it could give people more time to get diagnosed.

By the time doctors found Fred Csaky’s tumor, “It was the size of a baseball, it involved a lot of other organs.”

That meant doctors didn’t even know if surgery was an option until Cskay was on the table.

His pancreatic cancer story is common – with one exception: He survived.

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. It’s the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States,” said Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Part of the problem? No early detection test, and the scans that find it are expensive.

“You think about pap smears for cervical cancer, PSA tests for prostate cancer, and mammograms for breast cancer, and even home test kits for colon cancer. There’s nothing like that for pancreatic cancer,” Cskay said.

“It wouldn’t be reasonable for someone to just go in and ask for a scan, because the number of people that would actually get pancreatic cancer would be too few, it would cost too much money,” Fleshman said.

But now, a new study hopes to make those scans more practical.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s new ‘Early Detection Initiative’ treats adult-onset diabetes as a symptom of pancreatic cancer. Participants undergo imaging when they’re diagnosed with diabetes to see if it leads to earlier detection of the cancer.

“I lost a close friend and coworker,” Csaky said.

“He was diagnosed and seven to six weeks later, he had passed. So, it was very quick.”

That’s why the study is so important, Fleshman said, with the goal being “ultimately to change practice guidelines – that if someone was diagnosed with a new onset diabetes after the age of 50, this would become a regular part of the routine of what you would check for.”

The study also hopes to use blood samples to identify future pancreatic cancer biomarkers. Until guidelines change and early detection tests become available, you can check your risk level online. Just click here to do that.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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