Maria Menounos reveals she survived pancreatic cancer: What to know

Here's what you need to know about pancreatic cancer.

Maria Menounos has revealed she survived pancreatic cancer. Maria Menounos attends the 2022 Baby2Baby Gala presented by Paul Mitchell at Pacific Design Center on November 12, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
Maria Menounos has revealed she survived pancreatic cancer. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

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Former E! News correspondent and host of "Heal Squad" podcast Maria Menounos has revealed to People she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year.

Menounos, 44, suffered a benign brain tumour back in 2017, and is no stranger to health issues, having also been diagnosed with diabetes last year. Late last year, she was admitted to a hospital "with excruciating abdominal pain coupled with diarrhea," according to People.

A CT scan showed nothing, but a whole-body MRI later on revealed a 3.9 cm. mass on her pancreas. A biopsy that followed confirmed it was a Stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, People reported.

On Feb. 16, she underwent a surgery "to remove the tumour along with part of her pancreas, her spleen, a large fibroid and 17 lymph nodes," in what Menounos told People was "super painful."

It's estimated that in 2022, pancreatic cancer impacted the lives of 6,900 Canadians. In Canada, only about 10 per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis.

What is pancreatic cancer?

The pancreas, a part of the digestive system, is a pear-shaped gland located behind the stomach. Its duct connects the gland to the first part of the small intestine, which receives partially digested food from the stomach.

Pancreatic cancer forms when cells in the pancreas change and no longer behave normally, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. It most commonly starts in cells of the pancreatic duct.

It's said about 95 per cent of all cancerous tumours in the pancreas start in exocrine cells, which make and release juices that help with digestion. These cancers are called ductal adenocarcinomas.

Pancreas cancer, illustration.
The pancreas is located behind the stomach. (Getty Images)

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Canada says the signs and symptoms of the cancerous tumour can be "confusing to both patients and healthcare providers."

The signs can be vague, and commonly occur with other conditions.

Generally, the symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen or back

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

  • Changes in stool colour

  • Itchy skin

  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss

  • Diabetes developed late in life

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea and constipation

According to Pancreatic Cancer Canada, those who experience one or more of these symptoms should talk to their physician.

close up adult man hand massage on stomach. Abdominal and back pain are the common first signs of pancreatic cancer.
Abdominal and back pain are the common first signs of pancreatic cancer. (Getty Images)

Who is at risk for pancreatic cancer?

Some risk factors for the cancer are "non-modifiable," said Pancreatic Cancer Canada.

Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and the risk of cancer development increases by age. About 90 per cent of those who are diagnosed are aged 55 and up.

Chronic pancreatitis and long-standing diabetes can also increase a person's chances of developing pancreatic cancer.

Family history can also have an impact, as Pancreatic Cancer Canada said between five and 10 per cent of pancreatic cancers result from hereditary factors.

Some factors, however, include habits and environmental factors that can be modified to reduce risk.

These include:

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Obesity

  • Diet

Smokers are two-to-three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-smokers, according to the agency.

A diet high in cholesterol, fried foods and red meat may increase risk of the cancer, while a diet high in fruits, vegetables and fibre may reduce risk.

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