November is Pancreatic Awareness Month

Updated 29 Nov 2018.


More than 3,078 people in Australia were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014 according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of cases are inoperable or metastatic at the time of diagnosis, making pancreatic cancer one of the highest causes of cancer-related death.

In Western Australia, the disease ranks as the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death in men and women, after lung, bowel, prostate, and breast cancer.

Our Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, said frustratingly, not enough is known about how to tackle pancreatic cancer.

"We know far too little about causes, how to find the disease early or about successful treatment options," Mrs Ledger said.

"In its early stages, pancreatic cancer rarely causes noticeable symptoms and they often only appear once the cancer is large enough to affect nearby organs or has spread."

Mrs Ledger said some of these late-stage symptoms include jaundice or yellowing of the skin, indigestion, appetite loss, nausea or vomiting, unexplained weight loss, pain in the upper abdomen, side or back and changes to bowel motions including diarrhoea and severe constipation.

Mrs Ledger said although much more research into the causes and treatment of pancreatic cancer was needed, there are some known causes of the disease.

"These include smoking, long-term heavy alcohol drinking, diabetes, being overweight or obese, chronic pancreatitis and a family history of pancreatic and colon cancer," Mrs Ledger said.

"These known causes give us an insight to the lifestyle changes we can make to help reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

"About 70 per cent of cases of chronic pancreatitis are caused by long-term heavy drinking so one thing you can do immediately to reduce your risk is cut-out or lower your alcohol intake.

"Approximately 30 per cent of pancreatic cancers are caused by smoking tobacco. Quitting smoking will help decrease your risk of developing pancreatic and 15 other types of cancers."

Mrs Ledger said physical activity in addition to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet would also help protect against cancers related to being overweight or obese.

"If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, visit your doctor or health worker right away," Mrs Ledger said.

Click here for more information about how to reduce your overall cancer risk.


What research are we doing on pancreatic cancer?

Since 2015, community donations have allowed us to provide $300,000 - ($400,000 total - $100,000 per annum for 2015-2018) to Associate Professor Oliver Rackham for his research in correcting gene expression in pancreatic cancer.

In 2016 we provided $100,000 to Professor Ruth Ganss at UWA to run a study called "Improving anti-cancer therapy by vascular targeting and remodelling" which focused on cancer of the brain and pancreas.


For more information about cancer and our support services, call our cancer nurses on 13 11 20.

Found in:  News - 2018 | View all news