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Around 10,300 people in the UK get pancreatic cancer each year. 

According to Cancer Research UK, pancreatic cancer is the 10th most commonly diagnosed cancer. It is often diagnosed at an advanced stage and effects men and women equally. Below is some helpful information to know about who is at higher risk and the symptoms. Remember, if you are worried or show signs, please call your GP.

 

What is pancreatic cancer?

Firstly, the pancreas is an organ in the top part of your tummy that helps you digest your food and makes hormones, such as insulin. When abnormal cells in the pancreas start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way and forms a growth, known as a tumour, this is known as pancreatic cancer. Over time, cells can spread into surrounding bow

Doctors don’t know what can cause many pancreatic cancers but below is some helpful information about who is at higher risk and the symptoms. Remember, if you are worried or show signs, please call your GP.

Who is at higher risk?

There are multiple factors that could put you in a higher risk category for pancreatic cancer. However, bare in mind that having these risk factors doesn’t not mean you will definitely be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Age – Nearly half of people diagnosed are over the age of 75 and is not very common in people under 40.

Smoking – Around 20% of cases are due to smoking. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco all contribute to the increase in risk. Risk increases in line with how much you smoke and how long you have smoked for.

Weight – This could be because the pancreas makes more insulin in overweight people.

Family History – People with; a first-degree relative (or multiple) who have been diagnosed or have family cancer syndrome are at an increased risk. Though pancreatic cancer due to family history is uncommon

Pancreatitis – There is a link between long term chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

Diabetes – A disease of the pancreatic cells that make insulin which controls blood sugar levels.

Alcohol – Roughly 70% of cases are linked to high amounts of drinking over a long period of time. It is suggested to drink less than 6 units of alcohol a day to lower your risk.

 

What are the symptoms?

Stomach or back pain – 7 out of 10 people initially go to the doctor they’re experiencing pain. According to cancer research people often find that “it can begin in the stomach area and spread around to the back. The pain is worse when you lie down and is better if you sit forward. It can be worse after meals.”

Jaundice – Pancreatic cancer can cause jaundice by blocking the bile duct which is a tube that takes bile from the liver to small intestines. Jaundice can include; Yellowing skin and whites of eyes, darker urine, pale poo and itchy skin. (If you are experiencing jaundice symptoms please contact your GP or A&E straight away)

Weight loss – Unexpected weight loss, at least 10% of your total body weight. 

Diabetes – Both a risk and a symptom! Diabetes alone is not in itself a symptom, but if you have been recently diagnosed with it and are experiencing other symptoms then it can be.

Other symptoms include; itching, sickness, bowl changes, fever and shivering, indigestion and blood clots.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, and you don’t know why, for longer than four weeks, contact your GP. These symptoms don’t always mean you will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer as they can be caused by other things; IBS, hepatitis and gallstones. However, if you are concerned do not hesitate to contact your GP.

 

This information has been gathered from the NHS, Cancer Research UK and Pancreatic Cancer websites.