Is pancreatic cancer curable?

Experiencing symptoms of pancreatic cancer and being diagnosed can be a stressful time for patients, their families and their friends and often the first question after diagnosis is: “can I be cured?”

A picture of a question mark. Is pancreatic cancer curable? The short answer is: pancreatic cancer is treatable if discovered early enough. An early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can mean receiving potentially life saving surgery (currently the only cure for pancreatic cancer), preventing the cancer from spreading around the body. However, currently only 10% are diagnosed in time for surgery.

In order to increase the number of patient diagnoses in time for surgery, there needs to be a focus on raising awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors of pancreatic cancer.

How can pancreatic cancer be diagnosed early?

We can increase early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer by being aware of the symptoms and risk factors associated with the disease.

Currently, over 90% of the UK know little to nothing about pancreatic cancer.  Although the causes of pancreatic cancer are unknown, there are risk factors, early signs and symptoms associated with the disease that act as clear warning signals that someone might be suffering with pancreatic cancer.

Risk factors include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Age
  • DiabetesA picture of four of the main symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Is pancreatic cancer curable?
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pancreatitis

Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Upper abdominal discomfort
  • Mid-back pain which radiates around the back
  • Pale and smelly stools that don’t flush easily
  • Significant weight loss – without trying
  • Indigestion
  • Very itchy skin
  • Depression
  • New on-set diabetes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain when eating
If a patient is diagnosed by a healthcare professional early enough, they will be able to undergo surgery, potentially saving their life.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, and they are not normal for you, please do visit your GP and express your concerns.

If diagnosed in time, what are the treatment options?

Treatments for pancreatic cancer vary and are dependent on the stage of the disease and fitness level of the patient.

                                                                                Operable cancers
If you are told that you are operable it is possible that you might receive one of the following operations:

 You may have chemotherapy on its own or alongside other treatments such as radiotherapy or surgery. Usually you will be given chemotherapy by injection into a vein.
This treats cancer by using high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells.
                                                    Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT)
This involves taking digestive enzymes in capsule form to help you digest fat, carbohydrates and proteins.

A picture of a patient (left) and enzyme treatment (right). Is pancreatic cancer curable?

For more information on the treatments of pancreatic cancer, click here.

How can I help increase awareness?

There are lots of ways you can help increase awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors of pancreatic cancer.

For more information, click here.

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