TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Nearly hidden in your midsection, the six inch long pear shaped pancreas lies behind your stomach connected to your small intestine. It's a location that makes a cancer diagnosis difficult.
"Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is one of our most deadly cancers," said Dr. Donald Richards, with Texas Oncology.
Richard specializes in pancreatic cancer. It's a disease people can have for years.
"[They can have it] and not even know it," said Richards. "Yeah, it can be at advanced stages at the time of presentation and still not causing a great deal of symptoms."
Symptoms are slow to come, but arrive as pain in the upper abdomen and back area with loss of appetite and nausea. Weight loss follows with painless jaundice causing skin and eyes to turn yellow often not happening until after the cancer's first stages.
"There's no good screen for pancreatic cancer, unfortunately," he said. "It's usually diagnosed beyond the point it can be cured. It's a disease that spreads rapidly and early and once it's spread there's really no effective treatment right now that's standard."
Cancer of the pancreas is a genetic disease, but people can lower their risk through lifestyle changes.
"Don't smoke, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight those are probably the best things you can do."