Diabetes and the connection to Pancreatic Cancer aren’t talked about much, but although they affect the same organ, they have a lot more in common than their location.
People who have either of these conditions are more likely to have or develop the other.
So yeah, it’s important.
Take a look at the numbers to get a better idea of why learning about Diabetes and the connection to Pancreatic Cancer is essential.
➡ Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have Type 1 Diabetes.
➡ Of the 30.3 million adults with diabetes, 23.1 million were diagnosed, and 7.2 million were undiagnosed.
➡ 12 million Americans with diabetes are age 65 and older (25%)
➡ New Cases: 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
➡ Prediabetes: 84.1 million Americans age 18 and older had prediabetes.
Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in nearly 54,000 people each year, and it’s the third-leading cause of cancer-related death.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t diagnosed until their cancer has already spread and is harder to treat.
The research has taken place over many years, and now the teams are trying to use this known connection to diagnose Pancreatic Cancer earlier when treatment is more likely to improve their survival.
Here’s how the two disorders are linked:
- Diabetes is both a RISK for and a WARNING sign of Pancreatic Cancer. And the relationship goes both ways.
We don’t know exactly why yet, but people who have had diabetes for several years are slightly more likely to get pancreatic cancer than those without diabetes.
- Likewise, Pancreatic Cancer can also cause diabetes.
About half of those with pancreatic cancer have high blood sugar. When the cancer is surgically removed, blood sugar levels often go back to normal.
- If we’re talking about longstanding diabetes, then diabetes came first.
In the case of new-onset diabetes that’s followed by pancreatic cancer after a year or two, diabetes may be a symptom of pancreatic cancer.
And that’s why there’s an opportunity to intervene, according to Richard Frank, MD, a medical Oncologist and Director of Cancer Research at Western Connecticut Health Network.
He and other researchers are looking for ways to spot pancreatic cancer early in people with newly diagnosed diabetes.
Screening for Pancreatic Cancer in Diabetics:
- The complaint is usually that they have back pain and indigestion, so it’s easy for their doctor to think it’s something else before they finally say “Maybe we should check for Pancreatic Cancer.”
As a result, most Pancreatic cancers aren’t diagnosed until they’ve already spread.
Tests such as CT Scans, MRI’s and endoscopic ultrasounds are commonly used to find Pancreatic Cancer.
Naturally, it would be too expensive and impractical to test everyone with Diabetes this way, so we need a way to identify and screen only those people at highest risk of getting Pancreatic Cancer.
Suresh Chari, MD, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, has studied the link between pancreatic cancer and diabetes for many years.
He has found that people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes after age 50 have about a 1% chance of having pancreatic cancer. This rate is eight times higher than in the general population.
And mind you, that’s in the “newly diagnosed” category.
If you’ve been a diabetic for years, your risks are many times higher, because your pancreas is aging too.
The study is ongoing and will also identify biomarkers — signs of pancreatic cancer in the blood — that could be used to come up with new screening tests.
Dr. Frank, mentioned earlier, is doing a similar study with about 800 diabetes patients.
“The goal is to ultimately be able to identify, through a blood test, those individuals with diabetes who are at the highest risk of pancreatic cancer, and then to put those individuals into a screening program such as an annual MRI,” he says.
Dr. Chari adds that eventually, it might even be possible to screen people with prediabetes. He states:
“It makes sense that the further back you go, the earlier you’ll catch the tumor.”
Warning Signs for People With Diabetes
People with diabetes don’t need to panic but they should be more aware.
➡ The greatest risk of pancreatic cancer is in the first 1 to 2 years after the diagnosis.
If you have those mild symptoms and have new-onset diabetes, you should talk to your doctor.
➡ It’s also important to know your family history. If there’s cancer in the family, you should talk to a genetic counselor.
Being your own advocate is what I and these fine doctors recommend right now, while they do the research to see if they can get a better test to help diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier.
Learn More Here: