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Understanding Pancreatic Cancer

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the news again. But, this time it’s not for her work as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Instead, Justice Ginsburg is in the news because of her fight with pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg was diagnosed in late July of 2019. She received three months of radiation treatment and also had a stent placed in her bile duct to open it and allow bile to flow through. A statement released by the Supreme Court stated that Ginsburg’s treatment went well, the cancer has not spread to other areas, and she does not need additional treatment at this time. Ginsburg is fortunate. Many people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer don’t fare as well. Pancreatic cancer is typically diagnosed in its later stages when treatment isn’t as successful.

What is the Pancreas?

The pancreas resembles a pear that is lying on its side in shape. It is about 6 inches long and located just behind the lower part of the stomach. It’s an important organ because it releases enzymes needed for digestion and hormones that regulate blood sugar.

What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?

Most of the time, doctors aren’t able to determine the cause of pancreatic cancer. It happens when cells in the pancreas mutate and grow in an uncontrolled manner. They also live longer than normal cells do. The cells grow in a cluster that forms a tumor.

Often, pancreatic cancer starts in the linings of the pancreatic ducts. Doctors call these types of cancer pancreatic adenocarcinoma or pancreatic exocrine cancer. In rare cases, the cancer starts in the cells that make hormones or in the neuroendocrine cells. These cancers are called islet cell tumors, pancreatic endocrine cancer, and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.

What are the Risk Factors?

Although doctors don’t know what causes pancreatic cancer, research has revealed some risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. Some of them are:

  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • Obesity.
  • Age (most diagnoses occur after the age of 65).
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer.

Experts say that people who have the combined factors of smoking, long-term diabetes, and eating a poor diet are most at risk for developing pancreatic cancer. If your senior has not been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but you are concerned about their risk factors, your senior’s doctor can help create a plan to reduce the risk factors that are under your senior’s control.

If your aging relative is living alone and working to reduce their risk factors, a senior care provider can help with the tasks of daily living so they can focus on a healthier lifestyle. Preparing healthy meals and offering companionship during meal times, giving physical support with doctor-approved exercise, and providing transportation to social activities or doctor visits are just a few of the ways senior care can help your senior living alone.

If your senior loved one has already been diagnosed with pancreatic or other cancer and need assistance with symptoms or recovery, a senior care provider can be invaluable to the process. Senior care providers can be with your parent up to 24 hours a day while they deal with the side effects of treatment, provide medication reminders and transportation to chemotherapy, and offer mobility assistance if the treatment causes exhaustion or weakness. Consider a senior care provider to offer your aging loved one the help with need in this difficult time, and you the peace of mind that they have help when they need it.


If you or an aging loved one is considering senior care in Sedalia, CO, please contact the caring staff at SYNERGY HomeCare today at 303-953-9924.