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November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. About 9, 900 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year. In this blog, information nurse Richard is busting some of the myths surrounding pancreatic cancer.
First up, let me explain where the pancreas is and what it does. It’s hidden deep inside the abdomen, behind the stomach and in front of the spine. It’s about 15cm long.
The pancreas makes digestive juices and hormones, including insulin.
Myth: Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer
This is a common myth about types of cancer that are often diagnosed late. However, there are symptoms of pancreatic cancer. But they can be a bit vague and may be missed or mistaken for something else. Raising awareness of the symptoms will help to dispel this myth and improve survival.
Symptoms to be aware of are:
Myth: Only old people get pancreatic cancer
Like many types of cancer, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. Nearly a half of all new cases occur in people in their 70s or older. But it can affect younger people – incidence begins to increase from about the age of 40.
It is rare in people under 40, but it does happen.
Myth: It only affects men
This just isn’t true. Pancreatic cancer affects both men and women equally. We should all be aware of the potential symptoms so we can get them checked.
Myth: Pancreatic cancer is always deadly
It’s true that the stats about pancreatic cancer survival aren’t great. But when caught early, pancreatic cancer is treatable – and also potentially curable. Survival rates greatly improve if the cancer can be removed, which is only really possible if the tumour is small, and hasn’t begun to spread.
So, the key message is to be aware of the symptoms and get diagnosed as soon as possible – which is true for most types of cancer.
Myth: There’s no good treatment
This depends on what you mean by “good treatment”. It is true that treatment may not always be able to cure pancreatic cancer. But if a cure isn’t possible, there are always treatment options to help control it for as long as possible and improve symptoms – so they are also “good” treatments.
Treatment to control the cancer and improve symptoms is often known as supportive care.
Where can I find more information and support?
Check out this video of surgeon Charles Imber providing some more information about what pancreatic cancer is and what symptoms to look out for:
You can also read more about pancreatic cancer in our free booklet Understanding cancer of the pancreas or on our website.
You can call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm or you could visit our Online Community group for people affected by pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer UK also provides information and support to people affected by pancreatic cancer.
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My Mum waited 8-10 weeks before seeing her GP . She only had a bit of an uncomfortable feeling and didn’t think it was worth bothering her doc. Would this amount of time made a big difference.? Diagnosed 30 Dec passed 24 Sep. :’(
Hi Gilly62,We're sorry to hear about your mum. It's understandable that you want to get a better understanding of what happened. I'm sure you understand it is very difficult for us to answer your question about whether the time to diagnosis made a difference. I'm sorry we cannot be more help, but we hope you are finding some support here on the Online Community. You can also phone us for a chat, to talk about how you're feeling about your mum's passing or her diagnosis. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday, from 9am until 8pm. Or you may find speaking to your GP helpful.Everyone copes differently, but you may find the Online Community group for bereaved family members a space you'd like to join also.All the best,Liza
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