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Pancreatic Cancer Screening

An Underestimated Danger

Although the pancreas is only the tenth most common site of new cancers, pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women. Often in the early stages pancreatic cancer grows without any symptoms and is generally not detected until it is in an advanced stage. It is due to this trend that the 1 year survival rate in the US is 24% and the 5 year survival rate is less than 5%. Standard preventative screening has yet to be developed.

Due to the fairly low incidence of pancreatic cancer being accurately detected, screening has been generally recommended only for those considered high risk. Included in this group are those with a family history, accompanying diseases like diabetes and chronic pancreatitis, and lifestyle factors such as smoking. When these factors are present it is often the decision of one’s physician that discerns whether the patient should go forward with screening. The methods often used in diagnosis are: CT scan of the abdomenEndoscopic ultrasoundMRI of the abdomenPancreatic biopsy, and Genetic testing.


Developing Better Detection

Regardless of the level of risk, there remains a population who would like to have screening as a regular part of their healthcare routine. However, current methods used for testing can be invasive, expensive, and generally inefficient. In many instances these tests are not necessarily covered by insurance. Ultimately, the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer continues to slip through the cracks until it presents itself the advanced stages. It is this reality that Dr. Hixson is dedicated to changing.

As a world-renowned radiologist, Dr. Hixson is an advocate of developing more accurate and effective screening methods. His invention of the MammoSpot® Spot Compression Paddles  and S.O.F.T. (Special Optimized Full Tilt Paddle) Paddles have already contributed to improving our ability to accurately identify breast cancers. His latest innovation is targeted on the pancreas and served first in saving his own life.


A Life-Saving Ultrasound

At the urging of a fellow church member, Dr. Hixson used an ultrasound to detect that he had the early stages of pancreatic cancer. Thanks to his extensive experience in the field of radiology, Dr. Hixson was able to determine that his pancreatic duct was slightly dilated. In the past 10 years, many studies have shown a link between duct dilation and the presence pancreatic cancer. In fact, the pancreatic duct is where 99% of new pancreatic cancers originate. Having recognized this anomaly, Dr. Hixson went forward with the more invasive testing and confirmed that he had an early stage of pancreatic cancer.

Thanks to this early detection, Dr. Hixson was able to undergo Whipple surgery, which is often not a viable option for candidates because their pancreatic cancer is too advanced. Dr. Hixson is now a 3 year survivor and is dedicated to sharing his experience with others. The same method of pancreatic screening used to save his own life is now being offered at the Women’s Diagnostic Center for candidates, 65 and over (Younger, high risk candidates are also considered). No physician’s order is required and the screening process cost less than $100.

Ultrasound test