KNOWING the early warning signs of cancers can quite literally be a life-saver in some cases.
Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed too late, so it's important to be aware of any red flags.
It is the eleventh most common type of cancer in the UK and the sixth highest cause of cancer death.
The cancer has the lowest survival rate of any common cancer in the UK – with more than half of patients dying within three months of diagnosis.
The disease affects a large gland that is part of the digestive system – the pancreas is located behind the stomach and under the liver.
It has two main functions: dripping digestive enzymes into the gut to help break down food, and releasing the hormones insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar.
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Pancreatic cancer occurs when malignant – cancerous – cells form in the tissues of the pancreas.
Five signs of the disease that could be mistaken for another condition, or niggle, include persistent stomach ache, backache, indigestion, unexplained weight loss and bowel habit changes.
Other symptoms that might be more obvious include jaundice, difficulty swallowing and vomiting.
Patients may also suffer the symptoms of diabetes because pancreatic disease stops the production of insulin.
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The causes of the disease are not exactly known but there are several risk factors that can make someone more likely to get the disease.
The NHS and Cancer Research UK list some of these as smoking, obesity, diabetes, past radiotherapy treatment, chronic pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, Helicobacter or hepatitis B infection, and genetic factors.
According to Pancreatic Cancer UK the most common type of pancreatic cancer is PDAC – pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
A poll at the end of last year revealed 28 per cent of people wait three months before seeking help after noticing new symptoms.
Diana Jupp, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “It is hugely worrying to hear that so many people would put off seeking help for so long.
"Pancreatic cancer has not gone away because of Covid-19 and I would urge anyone with persistent, unexplained symptoms to use the NHS.
“There is no time to wait with pancreatic cancer. Thousands of people a year, still reeling from hearing the word cancer, are told it’s too late, that nothing can be done for them. That must stop.
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“We do not want people to panic if they have some or all of these symptoms, because most people who do will not have pancreatic cancer.
"But it is absolutely vital that people learn more about this disease, talk to their loved ones, and help us end the culture of silence around the deadliest common cancer in the UK.”
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