INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - 45,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. Most will die. But Dr. Max Schmidt is developing plans to cut that number by 20 to 30 percent by developing early detection screens for at risk individuals.
"The whole point is to try to identify these patients," says Schmidt. "Stratify their risk, not over treat, because we don't want to hurt anybody, but take advantage of the wonderful opportunity. We are curing patients in this clinic. Because we are identifying them from the front end."
Identifying potential pancreatic cancer patients isn't easy.
But Dr. Schmidt says those at higher risk are people over the age of 50 those who smoke, the obese, and most especially people with a family history of pancreatic cancer.
People who lose weight unexpectedly, have mucus in their stools, and pain that radiates to the back, or who suddenly develop diabetes should be screened as well.
"My dream is, is to not only identify these people, on a global scale, but develop something programmatically and also to in general, raise the awareness, so people are not so nihilistic about this disease."
The best way of identifying those at risk is to get images of the pancreas by either, CT, MRI or traditional X-ray.
Abnormal growths or cysts, show up as white on x-ray, and can be benign. But cysts which form along the the main pipe of the pancreas, can turn deadly.
"These are the deadly cysts, these are the ones that involve the main duct, so these patients have a 50 percent chance of cancer."
Dr. Schmidt says a cure for cancer may be some years away. But screening the right patients can be done right now. And he's getting results.
"We are curing pancreatic cancer in this clinic."
Dr. Schmidt is the Director of the Pancreatic Cyst and Cancer Early Detection Center. More than 1,000 patients are screened and tracked regularly by the center
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