How to live longer: Pancreatic cancer risk is ‘twice as high’ for people with this habit
Olivia Williams discusses ‘bizarre’ symptom of pancreatic cancer
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Pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK, and some figures suggest that cases are on the rise. Nonetheless, some risk factors are modifiable and you may be able to reduce your risk. Pancreatic cancer is usually not found until the advanced stages because it is hard to detect, so it is important to go to a GP if you think you may have symptoms.
Pancreatic cancer is a cancer that’s found anywhere in the pancreas, which is an organ in the top part of your tummy.
The American Cancer Society says that smoking is one of the most important risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
It says: “The risk of getting pancreatic cancer is about twice as high among people who smoke compared to those who have never smoked.”
Indeed, it notes that about 25 percent of pancreatic cancers are thought to be caused by cigarette smoking, though “the risk of pancreatic cancer starts to drop once a person stops smoking”.
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There are also a number of other risk factors, though the organisation notes “there is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer”.
The American Cancer Society recommends following a healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and that limits or avoids red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods.
The Cleveland Clinic says carrying weight around the waist is a risk factor even if you are not classified as obese.
Moreover, being exposed to chemicals used by dry cleaners and metal workers, is also a risk factor.
It suggests that the average lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is about one in 64.
Pancreatic cancer may not have any symptoms, or they might be hard to spot, so it is sometimes dubbed the “silent disease”.
Nonetheless, there are a few early warning signs to be aware of. It can help to keep a diary of your symptoms to bring to your GP.
Having symptoms doesn’t mean you have pancreatic cancer, but if you notice any you should notify your doctor.
Pancreatic cancer can cause jaundice by blocking the bile duct. If you have jaundice, your GP should refer you urgently for a CT scan.
Pancreatic Cancer UK says: “Go to your GP if you have symptoms of pancreatic cancer, you don’t know why you have them, and they last four weeks or more. If you have jaundice, go to your GP straight away.”
The charity explains that signs of jaundice include the whites of the eyes taking on a yellowish hue, as well as the skin, dark urine, pale poo and itchy skin.
Pancreatic Cancer UK states: “The pancreas plays an important role in digesting food and controlling your blood sugar level. Pancreatic cancer can affect this, and cause weight loss.”
The NHS notes that other signs are loss of appetite, feeling tired or having no energy or having a high temperature, or feeling hot or shivery.
Other symptoms can affect your digestion, such as feeling or being sick, diarrhoea or constipation, or other changes in your poo, or pain at the top part of your tummy and your back, and symptoms of indigestion, such as feeling bloated.
Many of these symptoms are very common and can be caused by many different conditions, but it is good to get them checked because if they’re caused by cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable.
Pancreatic cancer UK says: “Some people see their GP several times before getting a diagnosis.”
The charity adds: “If you have unexplained symptoms that last four weeks or more, go back to your GP until you get a firm diagnosis, or a referral for tests to find out what’s causing them.”
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