Pancreatic cancer is not common in India, but it can be lethal

Manohar Parrikar, Pancreatic cancer
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Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar succumbed on Sunday to pancreatic cancer. Medibulletin takes you through the disease


As India bids adieu to Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, there are questions hanging in the air on pancreatic cancer. With images of an emaciated Parrikar with a nasal tube attached inspecting a bridge or presenting the state budget still fresh, there are questions about the cancer, what causes it and how likely a person detected with pancreatic cancer is to be able to return to normal life – that Parrikar so bravely tried to do in his last days.

What is pancreatic cancer and how common is it?

According to Mayo Clinic, pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas — an organ in the abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of the stomach. The pancreas releases enzymes that aid digestion and hormones that help manage blood sugar – that is why it is one of the handful of “mixed” organs of the body. The incidence of pancreatic cancer in India is 0.5–2.4 per 100,000 men and 0.2–1.8 per 100,000 women. Globally, it causes more than a quarter of a million deaths annually. It is the 13th most common cancer, the eighth most frequent cause of death from cancer.

What is the prognosis for a person who has been detected with pancreatic cancer?

In a 2015 article in the Indian Journal of Surgery,  scientists from Kathmandu Medical College reported: “Survival rates (of pancreatic cancer) are among the worst for any tumor, being the mortality to incidence ratio of 98 %. It is among the tumors with worst survival rates. Resectional surgery does lead to about a 20 % 5-year survival, but because of the presence of widespread local disease or metastasis, only 10–20 % of patients undergo pancreatic resection. As current therapeutic results are so dismal, it is essential to review the epidemiologic factors that influence the development of this disease in order to implement preventive and screening strategies that can reduce the burden of this lethal cancer”.

Mayo Clinic concurs. It says: “Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly to nearby organs. It is seldom detected in its early stages. But for people with pancreatic cysts or a family history of pancreatic cancer, some screening steps might help detect a problem early. One sign of pancreatic cancer is diabetes, especially when it occurs with weight loss, jaundice or pain in the upper abdomen that spreads to the back.”

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

  • Pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to your back
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Depression
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)

What causes pancreatic cancer?

There is no definitive answer to that question but there seems to be a strong genetic element to the disease, Other known risk factors include smoking and an abnormal body weight.


  1. […] Pancreatic cancer is relatively uncommon, accounting for just over 3 percent of all new cancer cases. However, it is an extremely deadly type of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of just 8.5 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database. In the United States, pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death, after lung and colorectal cancer, and is expected to cause about 46,000 deaths in 2019. […]

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