Jeopardy host Alex Trebek announces he has pancreatic cancer
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Pancreatic cancer develops when cells in your pancreas – an organ in the top part of your tummy – begin to multiply rapidly. How serious pancreatic cancer is and what treatment you might have depends on where it is in the pancreas, how big it is, if it has spread, and your general health. Unfortunately, survival outcomes are not as promising as some other cancers because the symptoms are often hard to spot or non-existent in the early stages.
Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer often don’t occur until the disease is advanced, said The Mayo Clinic.
The health site said they may include:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- Light-coloured stools
- Dark-coloured urine
- Itchy skin
Pale, floating, smelly stools could be a sign, added Coastal Cancer Center.
The health side added: “If a pancreatic tumour prevents digestive enzymes from reaching the intestine, the result is an inability to digest fatty foods.
“So, you end up with loose, smelly ‘floaters’ as a result of the excess fat.
“Doctors say this symptom, in particular, can be an early clue and is too often overlooked.
“Dark and tarry stools may also be a sign and is caused by bleeding in the upper intestines.”
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Other symptoms include:
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes, dark urine and itchy skin)
- Recently diagnosed diabetes
- Problems digesting food – such as feeling full quickly when eating, Bloating, burping or lots of wind
- Feeling and being sick (nausea and vomiting)
- Difficulty swallowing.
When to see a GP
As the NHS explains, if you have another condition like irritable bowel syndrome, you may get bowel-related issues like those associated with pancreatic cancer regularly.
“But it’s important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you,” says the health body.
You should see a GP if you have:
Lost a noticeable amount of weight over the last six to 12 months without trying
Other symptoms of pancreatic cancer that get worse or do not get better after two weeks
A condition that causes symptoms with your digestion that are not getting better after two weeks of using your usual treatments.
Am I at risk?
Doctors don’t know what causes most pancreatic cancers but there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it.
Having any of the risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop cancer, however.
Getting older is a common risk factor for pancreatic cancer, with almost half of all new cases diagnosed in people aged 75 and over, says Cancer Research UK.
According to the charity, sometimes pancreatic cancer is found to run in families, but only between five and 10 in 100 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have a family history of it.
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