Today is World Pancreatic Cancer Day. A chance for me to raise the awareness again when sadly like any other day an estimated 985 people across the globe will die from pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all major cancers. Two years ago I led a parliamentary debate on pancreatic cancer following an e-petition from an inspirational local woman, Maggie Watts. Maggie’s husband Kevin lost his mother to pancreatic cancer in 1969. Forty years later, he was diagnosed with the same disease in 2009 at the age of 48. Shockingly there had been little change in the survival rates in 40 years.
The cause of most pancreatic cancers is unknown and symptoms are usually subtle, often attributed to less serious medical conditions. Just 2-10 percent of those diagnosed survive five years. This is why early detection is vital. Patients diagnosed in time for surgery are more likely to live five years and beyond.
There are five things that are helpful to know
- The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It works to help the body use and store energy from food by producing hormones to control blood sugar levels and digestive enzymes to break down food.
- Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the pancreas grow out of control, forming a mass of tissue called a tumor.
- Early diagnosis is key: patients who are diagnosed in time for surgery have a much higher likelihood of surviving five years.
- Symptoms – including abdominal or back pain, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes – are often subtle and are generally initially attributed to other less serious and more common conditions.
- The cause of the majority of pancreatic cancer cases is unknown. For the few known risk factors (e.g., familial history, smoking, obesity, age), more research is needed to understand their direct relationship to the disease.