Detecting pancreatic cancer

By Jeremy Manier

There’s a fine pancreatic cancer piece in the Chicago Tribune today by Robert Mitchum, a friend of the blog who recently got his Ph.D. in neurobiology at the University of Chicago. Rob uses a new study on a potential method of detecting pancreatic cancer to talk about the urgent need for such early screening methods. Pancreatic cancer typically causes few symptoms until a relatively late stage, when the tumor has spread and treatment options are limited. The statistics are stark – each year, more than 37,000 people get pancreatic cancer and 34,000 die from it.

Despite the grim numbers, some people do survive, and new efforts at early detection could boost their chances further. What I find amazing is how patients – and doctors – find the hope to continue their fight in the face of such daunting odds. How do you muster the energy for a struggle you know you’re unlikely to win, though future progress may depend on lessons learned from your failure? Many diseases that are now treatable once seemed hopeless. Most of those successes are built on knowledge gained from countless tragedies.

We hope to write a lot about pancreatic cancer in this blog. I’ll return later this week to the subject of finding hope in a seemingly hopeless field.

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