The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke has died from pancreatic cancer: What to know

Here's what you need to know about pancreatic cancer.

Musician Andy Rourke passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 59. (Getty Images) NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 14:  Musician Andy Rourke of The Smiths DJs at the Glenlivet Cellar Collection Experience at Michael Andrews Bespoke on January 14, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The Glenlivet)
Musician Andy Rourke passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 59. (Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Iconic English band The Smiths has announced its bassist Andy Rourke passed away to pancreatic cancer.

In a tweet, guitarist Johnny Marr wrote: "It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer.

"Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans," he continued. "We request privacy at this sad time."

Rourke was 59 years old when he passed from the disease.

It's estimated that in 2022, pancreatic cancer impacted the lives of 6,900 Canadians. In Canada, only about 10 per cent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis.

What is pancreatic cancer?

The pancreas, a part of the digestive system, is a pear-shaped gland located behind the stomach. Its duct connects the gland to the first part of the small intestine, which receives partially digested food from the stomach.

Pancreatic cancer forms when cells in the pancreas change and no longer behave normally, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. It most commonly starts in cells of the pancreatic duct.

It's said about 95 per cent of all cancerous tumours in the pancreas start in exocrine cells, which make and release juices that help with digestion. These cancers are called ductal adenocarcinomas.

Pancreas cancer, illustration.
The pancreas is located behind the stomach. (Getty Images)

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Canada says the signs and symptoms of the cancerous tumour can be "confusing to both patients and healthcare providers."

The signs can be vague, and commonly occur with other conditions.

Generally, the symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen or back

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

  • Changes in stool colour

  • Itchy skin

  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss

  • Diabetes developed late in life

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea and constipation

According to Pancreatic Cancer Canada, those who experience one or more of these symptoms should talk to their physician.

close up adult man hand massage on stomach. Abdominal and back pain are the common first signs of pancreatic cancer.
Abdominal and back pain are the common first signs of pancreatic cancer. (Getty Images)

Who is at risk for pancreatic cancer?

Some risk factors for the cancer are "non-modifiable," said Pancreatic Cancer Canada.

Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and the risk of cancer development increases by age. About 90 per cent of those who are diagnosed are aged 55 and up.

Chronic pancreatitis and long-standing diabetes can also increase a person's chances of developing pancreatic cancer.

Family history can also have an impact, as Pancreatic Cancer Canada said between five and 10 per cent of pancreatic cancers result from hereditary factors.

Some factors, however, include habits and environmental factors that can be modified to reduce risk.

These include:

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Obesity

  • Diet

Smokers are two-to-three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-smokers, according to the agency.

A diet high in cholesterol, fried foods and red meat may increase risk of the cancer, while a diet high in fruits, vegetables and fibre may reduce risk.

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