Patients' Resources

A silent but deadly disease, pancreatic cancer ranks 6th among the types of cancer that kill Singaporeans.

In fact, experts say that 95% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die of the disease.

What is pancreatic cancer? Why does it kill many people? What factors increase a person’s risk of developing the disease? How can you protect yourself from this dreadful disease?  These are some of the questions you can ask your oncologist about this “killer”.

Unmasking Pancreatic Cancer

As your oncologist would explain, pancreatic cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the pancreatic tissues.

The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of the stomach. The pancreas has two types of cells; the exocrine pancreas cells which are responsible for the production of digestive juices, and the endocrine pancreas cells which make insulin and glucagon – hormones that help regulate your body’s blood sugar level.

Thus, two types of pancreatic cancer can form: the exocrine tumours and the endocrine tumours.

The Underlying Causes Of This Silent Killer

Little is known about the reason why cancerous cells form in the pancreas. Your oncologist would explain, however, that the risk for developing pancreatic cancer is high in these groups:

  • Heavy Smokers. Your oncologist would explain that tobacco smoking is the most prominent risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer.
  • Persons With Diabetes.
  • Persons With Strong Family History Of Pancreatic Cancer.
  • Persons Who Are Obese.
  • Persons Who Suffered Pancreatitis. Episodes of pancreatitis or inflamed pancreas should lead you to consider seeing your oncologist who may recommend further diagnosis to determine if this is a symptom of pancreatic cancer.

Know Your Signs And Symptoms

Discuss with your oncologist about the need for further diagnosis if you suspect to have the following signs of pancreatic cancer:

  • Jaundice. If you notice yellowing of your complexion, this may be a sign of a tumour blocking your bile duct.
  • Weight loss. Weight loss has been associated with various conditions, including pancreatic cancer.
  • Abdominal pain. If you observe upper or middle abdominal pain that usually lasts longer than normal, consult your oncologist. This may be a sign of late stage pancreatic cancer.
  • Bloating. This result when the tumor blocks the pancreatic ducts and prevents digestive enzymes from being released into the intestinal tract.

Early diagnosis can help you draw out conclusion and seek treatment earlier.

Is There Any Shield Of Protection From This Killer?

Reducing your risk factors is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from pancreatic cancer.

It also helps to see your oncologist for early diagnosis.

Once a pancreatic tumour is detected, your oncologist will recommend surgical removal to potentially cure early stage pancreatic cancer.  Further treatment involving chemotherapy or radiotherapy after surgery may also be recommended.

In general, surgery is not recommended for advance stage pancreatic cancer. Treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy or both will often reduce the growth of cancer and prolong life.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer and how you can save yourself from this silent killer. Visit your trusted oncologist in Singapore at The Harley Street Heart and Cancer Centre today.