Finding out that you have any type of cancer is an earth-shattering moment for any individual and their loved ones. Depending on the type and when you’re diagnosed your chances of recovery can greatly vary. For those who are given the news that they have pancreatic cancer the news is particularly difficult to process. This is due to its low survival rate and its grim reputation due to public figures – such as Patrick Swayze and Steve Jobs – succumbing to the disease. This makes spotting the disease early incredibly important, here’s what to look for.
What Increases the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer?
Before we look at the symptoms it’s important to note what can increase a person risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Although anyone can get the illness the following factors can make a person more susceptible:
- Those aged 50-80
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- A medical history including; diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, stomach ulcers and Helicobacter pylori infection
- Genetic inheritance in about 10% of cases
Signs of Pancreatic Cancer
A big part of the reason pancreatic cancer has such a low survival rate is due to the difficulty of catching it early. There are many case where no symptoms appear at all in the earliest of stages and it cans sometimes be a case of luck if someone is diagnosed very early on. Nevertheless, vigilance is key and there are signs once the illness begins to develop:
- Back and stomach pain that comes and goes; it may also be exacerbated when lying down or after eating
- Significant, unexplained weight loss
- Jaundice; which is a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye, as well as darkening of urine and pale faeces
Less specific symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Change in bowel movements
- Shivering and high fever
- Blood clots
Many of these symptoms can be attributed to other illnesses – particularly the secondary list – but it’s still crucial that you visit your doctor for tests so you can determine the source of the symptoms for certain. Finally, in some cases diabetes like indications can occur due the chemicals interfering with the effect of insulin.
Treatment and Prognosis
If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer your doctor will begin preparing treatment specific to your case. The three main ways of treating the illness are; surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Depending on the type of pancreatic cancer you have and how advanced it is, you may be prescribed one or a combination of each of these treatments.
The success of the treatment is very dependent on the diseases progression, but due to how difficult it is to catch early this does make the prognosis less positive than other cancers. Currently, around 1 in 10 people survive beyond five years after diagnosis. In comparison, prostate and breast cancer five-year survival rate is more than 8 in 10. This stresses the importance of getting tested for pancreatic cancer if you are of high risk or experience relevant symptoms.