Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Pancreatic cancer prevention

Q. Every time I open a newspaper, I seem to read about another VIP with cancer of the pancreas. It sounds like a dreadful disease. Is there some way I can be tested to see if I'm at risk?

A. Cancer of the pancreas is relatively uncommon; only about 43,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, putting it far behind prostate cancer (218,000 a year), breast cancer (209,000 a year), and colorectal cancer (143,000 a year) — yet because pancreatic cancer is so hard to treat, it has a much higher mortality rate than any of these more common malignancies. It is indeed a dreadful disease, and its poor prognosis explains why it gets so much publicity.

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