Kamis, 18 Oktober 2012

Pancreatic Cancer and Smoking

Pancreatic Cancer and Patrick Swayze

Most people these days are aware of the link between pancreatic cancer and smoking. Patrick Swayze's death from pancreatic cancer helped firmly to imprint in the mind of the public the association between this deadly disease and cigarette smoking. Patrick himself recognised that his habit may have contributed to his condition. Even so, Patrick continued to smoke and was often photographed smoking in public. He even lit up as he left the clinic where he was receiving treatment. Patrick was diagnosed with stage IV disease. At this stage of the diagnosis, the cancer has already spread from the original tumour site rendering a cure almost impossible. Often the cancer has already spread when symptoms of the disease become obvious. In fact just over 50% of pancreatic cancer sufferers have metastatic disease at diagnosis. Perhaps Patrick became fatalistic. I suppose there was little point in quitting after such a grim prognosis. He probably thought that he didn't need the added stress of undergoing nicotine withdrawal. And although I am fervently anti-smoking I can sympathise with his predicament.

Pancreatic Cancer Prognosis

This cancer carries a bad prognosis and only 5% of sufferers will survive beyond a year and median survival is only 5 months. This median time, in relation to cancer, means that 50% of patients are dead 5 months post diagnosis. Less than 2% of patients make it beyond 5 years. Patrick survived 20 months following his diagnosis. This may have been because of his lifelong regime of physical fitness, despite his smoking habit.

Smoking and Pancreatic Cancer

So what are the risk factors in contracting this deadly disease? Smoking, as discussed earlier, is considered a major cause of pancreatic cancer. Smoking has been linked to many cancers due to the fact that carcinogenic chemicals in cigarette smoke are rapidly distributed to every corner of the body by the bloodstream. Research shows that regular cigarette smokers increase their risk for pancreatic cancer by about 2 fold. The good news for ex-smokers is that risk reduces to similar levels experienced by non-smokers 15 years after smoking cessation.