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Dr Gavin Johnson, Consultant Gastroenterologist at The Physicians’ Clinic comments on the potential signs of pancreatic cancer

November 27, 2017

Pancreatic cancer is the 4th biggest cause of cancer related death in the UK, and the overall survival five years after the diagnosis remains very poor, and unlike many other common cancers this has not really improved in the last couple of decades. The problem with pancreatic cancer is that initial symptoms can be vague, and patients often present once the tumour has spread to other parts of the body, or has invaded local blood vessels which precludes a surgical resection. Without a surgical resection, a cure is not possible. Although progress has been made of slowing the cancer growth with chemotherapy for disease that cannot be operated on, there is still much work to do to improve patient survival. A lot of research is going on into early detection of pancreatic cancer with blood or urine tests (so called biomarkers), but these have not yet hit the main clinical practice. There are also surveillance programmes for patients with significant risk factors, such as a strong family history of pancreatic cancer. However, the best advice for everyone else is to seek medical attention if there is unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, jaundice, or the onset of diabetes later in life without risk factors. This would normally lead to a CT scan of the abdomen.

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