According to the Singapore Cancer Registry 2019 Annual Report, pancreatic cancer in Singapore is the tenth most common type of cancer in males (for the period 2015 to 2019), accounting for 1,208 incidences (3.2% of all incidences). Pancreatic cancer is not within the top 10 most common cancers in women, but is responsible for a disproportionate number of cancer deaths. The likelihood of pancreatic cancer increases with age, with the majority of patients being 50 years old and above.
What Is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer happens when malignant cells develop in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is located behind the stomach. It has exocrine cells that produce insulin and hormones to manage blood sugar, and it also has endocrine cells that release enzymes that assist with digestion. There are ducts that lead from the pancreas to the small intestine. Pancreatic cancer may affect the functioning of the exocrine or endocrine cells and how the pancreas works.
Most Common Form Of Pancreatic Cancer In Singapore
Pancreatic cancers are categorised based on (i) where they occur, and (ii) the type of body cell that the cancer started from. Cancer of the pancreas mostly start in the exocrine cells. About 95% of exocrine cancers of the pancreas are adenocarcinomas.
Pancreatic cancers usually start in the ducts of the pancreas carrying digestive enzymes out of the pancreas. Called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, it is the most common form of pancreatic cancer in Singapore and is also the most aggressive.
Other forms of pancreatic cancer, such as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, are rare.
Common Cause Of Cancer Deaths
Pancreatic cancer in Singapore is the fifth most common cause of cancer death among males (6.3% of all cancer deaths in men) and the fourth common among females (6.7%) (2015-2019 data).
Survival Rates For Pancreatic Cancer Are Poor
Pancreatic cancer survival rates are generally poor.
Due to the lack of obvious symptoms in the early stages, only around 20% of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed early enough for surgical removal. However, even after curative surgery, about 50% of the patients survive for two to three years. Overall, the five-year survival rate after surgery is around 20%. Most patients with advanced pancreatic cancer do not survive for more than a year.
According to the National Cancer Centre Singapore, treatment of pancreatic cancer challenging as there are as yet no useful predictive biomarkers that helps doctors select the best treatment for patients. The pancreas is also sited near major blood vessels and other important organs, which makes treatment difficult.
Further Reading: Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors And Symptoms; Diagnosis And Treatment In Singapore
This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.