Pancreatic cancer can cause ascites

Olivia Williams discusses ‘bizarre’ symptom of pancreatic cancer

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Pancreatic cancer patients approaching the end of their lives can suffer additional symptoms, including the onset of ascites.

Ascites is a term which will be unfamiliar to many a reader, but in short, it is a form of swelling.

Pancreatic Cancer UK says: “Pancreatic cancer can sometimes cause fluid to build up in the tummy area (abdomen). This is called ascites, and it can cause pain and discomfort.

“You may have swelling in your tummy, and you may feel full quickly when you eat. You might find it harder to move around and may get breathless. If you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse.”

The charity added: “You may also find it difficult to get comfortable when lying down or on your side. You may find it more comfortable to use pillows to prop yourself up when you sleep.

“The fluid may be drained off to make you more comfortable. To do this, you will have a local anaesthetic in your tummy so that it’s numb and you don’t feel anything. A needle is used to put a thin tube into your tummy to drain the fluid.

“The tube connects to a drainage bag which will collect the fluid. The fluid can build up again and you may need to have it drained more than once. You may have a permanent drain put in so that the fluid can be regularly drained off by the district nurse at home. You can ask your doctor or nurse about this.

“Sometimes ascites may also be treated with a medicine called a diuretic. This may help reduce the fluid, although it doesn’t always make a big difference.”

All this forms part of the painful experience of pancreatic cancer, a disease which like all forms of cancer has taken the lives of many, including Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze.

While the survival rate for pancreatic cancer is low, Cancer Research UK say 37 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases are preventable.

Despite this reasonable number, the causes behind the disease are not fully understood.

The NHS says you’re more likely to develop pancreatic cancer if:

• You are over the age of 75
• Have certain medical conditions such as chronic pancreatitis
• There is a family history of pancreatic cancer.

Nevertheless, there are some ways people can reduce their risk. This includes trying to lose weight, cutting down on red and processed meat reducing alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking.

These are simple steps, but they can have a big impact not just in reducing your risk of pancreatic cancer, but all cancers too.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are:
• The whites of the eyes turning yellow
• Loss of appetite
• Feeling tired or having no energy
• A high temperature.

As pancreatic cancer can affect digestion, it can also lead to patients feeling sick and suffering from constipation or diarrhoea.

So too can it cause “pain at the top part of the tummy and back”, according to the NHS.

They add that this pain “may feel worse when you are eating or lying down and better when you lean forward”.

If you experience any disconcerting symptoms, it is important to get them checked.

Even if it turns out to be nothing, it is far better to find out it is nothing than to wait and find out it was something which you could have treated earlier.

One in two people will get cancer in their lifetime and it can affect any part of the body at any time.

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