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  • What is pancreatic cancer?
    • The pancreas is an organ that is six inches long. It makes insulin and other hormones. These hormones help the body use or store the energy that comes from food.

      In 2012, about 44,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. Most will be over 65 years old.

  • What are the risk factors for pancreatic cancer?
    • * Smoking: Smoking tobacco is the most important risk factor for pancreatic cancer. People who smoke tobacco are more likely than nonsmokers to develop this disease. Heavy smokers are most at risk.
      * Diabetes: People with diabetes are more likely than other people to develop pancreatic cancer.
      * Family history: Having a mother, father, sister, or brother with pancreatic cancer increases the risk of developing the disease.
      * Inflammation of the pancreas: Pancreatitis is a painful inflammation of the pancreas. Having pancreatitis for a long time may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
      * Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are slightly more likely than other people to develop pancreatic cancer.

      Many people who get pancreatic cancer have none of these risk factors, and many people who have known risk factors don’t develop the disease.

  • What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
    • Early cancer of the pancreas often doesn’t cause symptoms. When the cancer grows larger, you may notice one or more of these common symptoms:•
      * Dark urine, pale stools, and yellow skin and eyes from jaundice
      * Pain in the upper part of your belly
      * Pain in the middle part of your back that doesn’t go away when you shift your position
      * Nausea and vomiting
      * Stools that float in the toilet

      Also, advanced cancer may cause these general symptoms:
      * Weakness or feeling very tired
      * Loss of appetite or feelings of fullness
      * Weight loss for no known reason
      These symptoms may be caused by pancreatic cancer or by other health problems. People with these symptoms should tell their doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

  • How can you prevent pancreatic cancer?
    • There are no established guidelines for preventing pancreatic cancer. For now, the best approach is to avoid the previously mentioned behavioral risk factors whenever possible.

      Cigarette smoking is the most important avoidable risk factor for pancreatic cancer. It is responsible for 20% to 30% of pancreatic cancers. Tobacco use also increases the risk of many other cancers such as cancers of the lung, mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus, kidney, bladder, and some other organs.

      Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and exercising are also important.

Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Pancreatic Cancer Data
Access the pancreatic cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking