Dr. Antonio Baines, adjunct associate professor of UNC Pharmacology, spoke with ABC11 for the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer, emphasizing health disparities among races and urging for regular screenings.
Pancreatic cancer is currently the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Projections from Pancreatic Cancer Action Networks anticipate for it to become the second most common cause by 2030. In his interview, Dr. Baines emphasized the formidable lethality of pancreatic cancer, and its high mortality rate due to the absence of an effective early detection test. He explained that pancreatic cancer is typically discovered incidentally, often when individuals experience symptoms such as back pain, unexplained weight loss, or diet-related issues, which, unfortunately, are not specific indicators of pancreatic cancer.
To address the lack of early detection methods, Dr. Baines stressed the importance of regular screenings, especially for individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer. While sporadic cases of pancreatic cancer typically emerge later in life, those with a familial or genetic predisposition can undergo yearly screenings to monitor their pancreatic health. Dr. Baines advised that the best defense is to prioritize overall health and well-being,
One notable aspect Dr. Baines brought to attention was the existing health disparities among races, with a particular focus on African Americans. African Americans face a 50 to 90% higher incidence rate compared to other ethnic groups. Additionally, a troubling inequality exists in the accessibility of surgical interventions. As Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month unfolds, Dr. Baines encourages individuals to stay vigilant about their health, noting that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking medical attention for any unusual symptoms are vital steps in decreasing the risk of pancreatic cancer.