Pancreatic Cancer

When it comes to pancreatic cancer, the facts are often quite distressing to read.

The pancreas

The pancreas has two main functions – to produce insulin controlling the amount of sugar in the blood and to produce enzymes to help with food digestion.

It lies between the stomach and the spine.

Pancreatic cancer facts

It has one of, if not the, lowest survival rate of all the cancers.

Once diagnosed, patients have just an 12% survival rate beyond five years.

Unless caught early enough, most cases are inoperable. If diagnosed while surgery is still an option, a patient’s chance of surviving beyond five years increases tenfold.

The median survival rate is just 6-8 months.

While for most other cancers the death rate is declining, for pancreatic cancer, death rates are increasing.

In 2021, 4261 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It’s estimated that 3391 people will not survive.


Often unnoticeable, many symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be put down to digestive issues.

All of the symptoms can have other causes and because there is not yet an easy diagnostic test, pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed too late.

Classic symptoms

  • Jaundice – yellow skin/eyes, dark urine. This is generally related to a bile dict obstruction. If the tumour is in the body or tail of the pancreas, patients are unlikely to have jaundice.
  • Significant and unexplained weight loss.
  • Unexplained and new abdominal pain.

Other symptoms to watch out for

  • New and different pain in the abdomen that travels to the back.
  • Pain in the mid-back area.
  • Diabetes – new-onset in people over the age of 50 who do not present risk factors.
  • Indigestion or abdominal discomfort.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain and discomfort when eating.

For more information on pancreatic cancer, head to the Cancer Australia website.