Pancreatic cancer is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas, a large gland that’s part of the digestive system. As is the case with all cancers, treatment success largely depends on the stage and spread of the cancer. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat because the cancer rarely produces symptoms until it is quite advanced.
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“If the tumour is large or has spread, treating or curing the cancer is much harder,” explains the NHS.
When symptoms do appear they tend to be non-specific, according to Cancer Research UK.
Non-specific means the symptoms may crop up in different parts of the body and are linked to a wide range of conditions.
One example of this is fever and shivering.
As Cancer Research UK explains, you might have a temperature from time to time because you have jaundice or an inflamed pancreas.
“When your temperature is high you may feel cold and shivery,” notes the charity.
Other non-specific symptoms include:
- Bowel changes
- Fever and shivering
- Blood clots
It’s important to remember that these non-specific symptoms can be caused by many different conditions and are not usually the result of cancer, says the NHS.
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“But you should contact a GP if you’re concerned or these symptoms start suddenly,” adds the health body.
Am I at risk?
It’s not fully understood what causes pancreatic cancer, but a number of risk factors for developing the condition have been identified.
One of the gravest risk factors is smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco.
A large Cancer Research UK study looking at lifestyle factors found that nearly one in three pancreatic cancers (about 30 percent) may be linked to smoking.
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Another avoidable risk factor is eating an unhealthy diet.
Some research has suggested a possible link between red or processed meat and pancreatic cancer.
A study showed that pancreatic cancer risk was higher in men who ate more red meat a day compared to those who ate no red meat.
The same study also showed that both men and women who eat more processed meat have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.
Linked to eating an unhealthy diet is obesity, another risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
It is estimated that just over one in 10 pancreatic cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese, according to Cancer Research UK.
“This increase in risk could be because the pancreas makes more insulin in overweight people,” explains the charity.
What is considered obese?
According to the NHS, a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 means you’re overweight.
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