Our grateful thanks to the charity, Pancreatic Cancer UK for their assistance with this weeks report. The information below is derived from the Pancreatic Cancer UK website which includes far more detailed information www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk
Pancreatic Cancer: An Introduction; The pancreas helps to digest your food and also produces insulin which balances the sugar level in the blood. It is behind the stomach and shaped like a tadpole.
It is very difficult to diagnose pancreatic cancer as the pancreas is so deep within the body and symptoms vary depending on the exact location of the tumour in the pancreas and which cells or function of the pancreas is affected by the tumour or cancer.
Who does it affect? Pancreatic cancer is principally a disease affecting middle-aged and older patients but this is not always the case and the diagnosis can be missed in younger patients.
Although the commonest form of pancreatic cancer - pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma - is so deadly, there are other much rarer forms - eg. endocrine tumours - which can affect younger patients and have a much better outlook with surgery and chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
Symptoms?: Unfortunately there are frequently no symptoms at all in the very early stages. The tumour may have grown significantly before it causes any obvious recognised symptoms.
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer can also be quite vague and non specific ie may be caused by many other more common and less serious conditions. Diagnosis can be delayed as the GP or specialist tries to rule out other causes such as hepatitis, gall stones, irritable bowel syndrome and stress.
Early symptoms can nclude: General discomfort or pain around the stomach area, Sickness, Bowel disturbances, Diabetes, Jaundice, Skin itching
Later signs: Not every person living with pancreatic cancer has every symptom, it depends very much on the location of the tumour in the pancreas. For example, jaundice can be an early sign of a tumour in the head of the pancreas affecting the bile duct and back pain can be a late sign of a tumour in the body or tail of the pancreas possibly affecting the nerves and spine.
Loss of appetite, Unexplained weight loss, Back pain, Low mood and depression. Jaundice may also be a late sign of a tumour that has developed initially further away from the bile duct and then grown or spread until it causes obstruction of the bile duct.
For further information visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk
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