November is Pancreatic Awareness Month (PCAM), so what better time to speak about what remains one of the most deadly cancers to be diagnosed with.
According to Cancer Research UK, there has been no improvement in survival rates over the last 40 years with only 1% of those with the disease living longer than 10 years post diagnosis.
Over 9,500 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK alone, making it the 11th most common form of cancer.
Unfortunately, Pancreatic cancer is all too often found too late, going unnoticed with around 60% of tumours spreading before they are first discovered.
Stats show that only around 17% of men and 26% of women aged between 15 and 49 years have a chance of surviving beyond 5 years making early diagnosis vital.
Although the five year survival rate for those living in Europe is 6% compared to those living in the UK where the figure is just 4%, there is obviously a long way to go in not only the early diagnosis, but also in the successful treatment of it.
Why Are the Survival Rates so Low?
Unfortunately the location of the Pancreas which lies in the middle of the abdomen means that the tumours are often found too late. A delay in diagnosis means that malignant cells often spread rapidly to nearby vital organs via the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
The liver, lungs and/or abdominal cavity are easily reached by the cells and due to the location of the pancreas, treatment is a lot more difficult as it can strangle vital blood vessels.
Even when it is possible to reach a tumour, it is thought that 70% of cases will still go on to be fatal due to its aggressive nature.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?
Although the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be vague compared to other forms of the disease, there are some things you can look out for. As touched on previously, diagnosing pancreatic cancer early is key in terms of survival rate and long-term outlook of the patient.
The list below contains some of the most common signs of pancreatic cancer, however, early symptoms are rare and is one of the reasons the disease is diagnosed too late.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
Other possible symptoms may include:
It is important to note that having one or more of the above symptoms does NOT mean that you have pancreatic cancer.
Contact your GP without delay if any of the above symptoms persist for longer than a week or so.
What are the Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer?
Although it is not fully understood what causes pancreatic cancer, there are a number of risk factors that have been identified and are associated with possible development of the condition.
Preventing Pancreatic Cancer
Unfortunately there is no sure way to prevent getting pancreatic cancer, especially as some of the risk factors cannot be controlled, such as family history, race and gender.
However, there are some things that you can do in order to reduce your chances of contracting the disease. For example, reducing your alcohol consumption, quitting smoking while keeping active and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce your risk.
World Pancreatic Cancer Day is on November 21. On this day charities and individuals come together to help raise awareness about the symptoms, risk of the disease and the urgent need for early detection. For further information on how you can help, please see https://www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/get-involved/pancreatic-cancer-awareness-month/
Please share this post with your friends and family in order to raise awareness.
Disclaimer: Any information on pancreatic cancer contained within this article is for your guidance only and must not be used for the basis of any self diagnosis. In all instances, you are advised to speak to your GP or healthcare professional immediately if you are concerned or suffering from any of the symptoms above.
Image courtesy of https://www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/
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