Pancreatic Cancer


The pancreas is a glandular organ that secretes enzymes to aid digestion, and hormones to regulate the metabolism of sugars. It is located behind the stomach. Pancreatic cancer occurs when there is uncontrolled growth of the cells that make up the pancreas. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common form of pancreatic cancer and accounts for about 85% of cases. The term, “pancreatic cancer” is often used to refer only to that type.

General information

Pancreatic cancer rarely occurs before the age of 40, and more than half of cases occur in those over 70.

Symptoms of the disease include pain in the upper abdomen or upper back, yellow skin and eyes, dark urine from jaundice, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and weight loss.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include tobacco smoking, obesity, diabetes, and certain rare genetic conditions. About 25 percent of cases are linked to smoking, and five to 10 percent are genetic.

Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it is a leading cause of cancer death. Signs and symptoms may not appear until pancreatic cancer is quite advanced and complete surgical removal isn’t possible.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you may have several treatment options. Depending on the type and stage, pancreatic cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. You also may use a combination of therapies. When a cure or control of the disease is not possible, some patients and their doctors choose palliative therapy

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma typically has a poor prognosis. After diagnosis, 25 percent of people survive one year and only five percent live for five years. If the cancer is diagnosed early, then the five-year survival rate rises to about 20 percent.

In the United States, pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of deaths due to cancer. The disease occurs most often in the developed world.

Social Security Administration POMS DI 23022.265 – Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is listed under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowance Program, which was launched in 2008 to expedite certain disability claims. Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits; however, you will be notified if your condition is being considered as a compassionate allowance.

The following may be done to diagnose pancreatic cancer: Physical exam, lab tests including blood, urine, and stool samples to check for bilirubin and other substances, medically appropriate imaging, and biopsy. Tests such as CT scan, ultrasonography, laparoscopy or angiography may be appropriate to determine the stage of the cancer.

Pancreatic cancer can be cured only when it is found at an early stage, before it has spread. However, other treatments may be able to control the disease and help patients live longer and feel better.

Your representative may be able to help expedite your disability claim if you have a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.