Pancreatic cancer has a dismal prognosis and the statistics make grim reading. In 2014, 9614 of pancreatic cancer patients were diagnosed with the disease and 8834 died from the malignancy.1-3 Currently, only 4% of patients survive beyond five years. It is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK and set to overtake breast cancer as the fourth biggest cancer killer by 2030.4
The most common risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer are smoking, obesity and older age, with the median age being 72.5 While advising patients on how a healthy lifestyle can cut their risk of developing pancreatic cancer, it’s important to note that, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, pancreatic cancer is considered to be one of a number of ‘bad luck’ cancers. Two-thirds of pancreatic cancer tumours are attributable to the random mutations that occur in stem cell divisions throughout a person’s lifetime.6
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are often mistaken for those of other illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome. It is important that patients are diagnosed as early as possible to increase the chance of surgery to remove the tumour. This is currently the only potential cure.