In Singapore, pancreas cancer ranks as the fifth and sixth most common cause of cancer death among men and women respectively.
The pancreas is an organ that secretes digestive enzymes and other hormones such as insulin to regulate the body.
The cancer’s initial silent symptoms and aggressive biological behaviour mean it is often too late by the time it is discovered.
As the cancer advances, patients may develop yellowing of the eyes, tea-coloured urine and pale stools, unexplained weight loss and pain.
While it may be possible for a person to live without a fully functional pancreas, “it is the spread of the cancer to other vital organs that causes organ failure, and eventual death”, said Dr David Tai, a consultant medical oncologist at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, who added that the most common site of spread is the liver.