Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body multiply and divide uncontrollably. When this destructive process takes place in the tissues of your pancreas — an organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach – pancreatic cancer is the result. Pancreatic cancer may not have any symptoms, or they might be hard to spot. If symptoms do show up, they may take the form of changes to your poo.
According to the Columbia Surgery, “this can arise as a result of pressure from a pancreatic cyst or tumour on the stomach or the small intestine that causes a block in the digestive tract.”
According to the health body, diarrhoea results when the nutrients in food are not absorbed properly.
“When this occurs, stool can become loose, watery, oily and foul-smelling.”
If a tumour blocks the pancreatic duct, you may notice the following changes:
- Stool may float due to the higher fat content
- Appear bulky
- Appear greasy
- Unusually pale.
“This is because if they’re caused by cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable,” explains the health body.
Am I at risk?
Anyone can get pancreatic cancer – it’s not always clear what causes it.
Your risk of developing cancer depends on many things including age, genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors.
Having any of the risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, pancreatic cancer is more common in older people.
“Almost half of all new cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over,” explains the charity.
A modifiable risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking.
Cancer Research UK explains: “Cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco all increase pancreatic cancer risk.”
Other risk factors include:
- Have certain medical conditions, such as long-term chronic pancreatitis
- There is a history of pancreatic cancer in your family.
How is pancreatic cancer treated?
Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to treat.
According to the NHS, the treatment you have will depend on:
- The size and type of pancreatic cancer you have
- Where it is
- If it has spread
- Your general health.
“It may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and supportive care,” adds the health body.
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