Cancer is a scary word. But when you know all the facts, knowledge and understanding can reduce the fear. Find out everything you need to know about cancer and its effects...

Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is found in the back of the abdomen, right behind the stomach. It’s basically a spade-shaped gland that produces enzymes and hormones. Cancer can affect this gland, and later spread to other parts of the body. This type of cancer is known as pancreatic cancer, and even though it’s relatively rare, it happens to be fatal in most cases. The survival rates for all stages are quite low, between 25 percent and 6 percent. Pancreatic cancer is likely to affect adults in between the ages of 50 and 80; every year about 7,800 people develop this type of cancer around the world.

The Silent Killer

Pancreatic cancer is often referred to as the silent killer because of the absence of symptoms in the early stages. Even though every patient might react differently to the cancer, most of them tend to show signs of the disease in the late stages. When patients are diagnosed, the majority of the time the cancer is either incurable or inoperable. Most doctors will try to prescribe special medications and treatments in an attempt to delay the growth of the tumor. For better understanding, the stages of pancreatic cancer are the following:

  • Stage 1 –Includes Stage 1A and 1B. The first sub-stage is the earliest stage, where the tumor is within the pancreas and measures less than 2cm. In the second sub-stage the tumor measures more than 2cm.

  • Stage 2 –Includes Stage 2A and 2B. In the first sub-stage the tumor is growing in the tissues. In the second sub-stage, the tumor has grown into the lymph nodes.

  • Stage 3 – The tumor has spread to the blood vessels but not yet to the organs.

  • Stage 4 –The tumor has spread to the liver, and even to the lungs.

Symptoms and Signs

Even though pancreatic cancer doesn’t show any early signs, there are a few symptoms associated with the disease. A few of these symptoms are the following:

  • Weight loss –This symptom may be caused by any other disease or cancer; however, it’s associated with pancreatic cancer because of the main function of the pancreas.

  • Pain –Not always present, some pancreatic cancer patients experience pain in the upper area of the abdomen.

  • Nausea – Sometimes present in advanced stages.

  • Fever - Sometimes present in advanced stages.

  • Itchy and yellow skin

Clinical Trials

Statistics show that just in the year 2007, there were 7,684 people in the UK that were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The next year, the same statistics showed that 7,781 pancreatic cancer patients had actually died from the disease. One of the best ways to find effective medical treatment is by clinical trials. The NHS provides information on the numerous clinical trials being carried out by medical researchers in the UK. The NHS website provides information on the clinical trials that are relevant to pancreatic cancer. However, before you register, you may want to discuss this issue with your GP first. In most cases, you may have to be referred by your physician in order to qualify for the trial.