Pancreatic cancer [PC] is not your commonly diagnosed cancer with it being 10th leading cancer in males and 9th in females. However, in 2015, 3300 Australians were diagnosed with PC and in 2016, it was recorded that 2900 Australians then died from the cause of PC. Furthermore, worldwide, 338,000 people were diagnosed with PC, with 330,000 people deaths reported the next year. Thus, by the number of mortalities from the disease, PC is considered to be the most fatal and aggressive type of cancer.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

Well, PC is the formation of either benign or malignant cells on the Pancreas, cells can form anywhere on the Pancreas, but most commonly [70% of the time] cells are found at the head of the Pancreas. At this present time, there are currently 19 different types of PC, which then are split up into either exocrine PC or endocrine PC.

Exocrine PC is when abnormal cells develop on exocrine cells [exocrine glands and ducts of the pancreas], these glands secrete enzymes to assist in breaking down CHO, Fats, Proteins & acids in the duodenum, Exocrine PC makes up 95% of all PC related diagnosis, the most common form being Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. Endocrine PC is when abnormal cells start to develop on the endocrine glands of the pancreas, these glands function is to secrete the hormones, insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream, these hormones regulate the body’s blood glucose levels. These types of cancers are quite rare, only making up 5% of all PC related cancers diagnoses.

Why is PC so fatal?

The main reason why PC is the most dangerous form of cancer is because symptoms don’t usually present themselves until the very late stages [usually Stage 3 or 4]. Usually, by then, the prognosis is poor, with the 5-year survival rate for PC being 6-12 month [if diagnosed at stage 3-4], but when diagnosed at stage 1-2, the 5-year survival rate is 7-25% higher. The most common signs for PC are; upper abdomen pain, loss of appetite, nausea & vomiting, weight loss, changes in bowel movements & jaundice. About 10-20%, people with PC can develop Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

Doctors or surgeons usually have the use of blood tests, imaging [Ultrasound, CT, MRI & PET scan] needle biopsy and other exploration surgeries to conclude or re-evaluate on the persons PC stage, Health professionals use the TNM system as their staging system. PC patients usually either have surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or combination of the three. But surgery is only used for patients that have gotten an early diagnosis [Stage 1 or 2]. Whipple surgery is the most common surgery performed, this involves the removal of several parts of the human digestive systems; pancreas, duodenum, part of the stomach, gall bladder & bile duct.


The evidence between ‘Cancer and Exercise’ is overwhelming, especially for pre, during & post-treatment and palliative care. Benefits of including an Exercise Physiologist in your treatment plan is not just physically but mentally beneficial;

  • Improve Aerobic capacity,
  • Improve Muscular strength and endurance [1RM],
  • Improve Physical functionality [ie. Chair raise, stair climbing, walking, balance],
  • Improve Body composition [Lean muscle & body fat mass],
  • Improve Bone mineral density [Effected by chemotherapy],
  • Improve Cardiovascular parameters [Blood pressure & heart rate],
  • Increase adherence to physical activity levels [outside the clinic],
  • Improve Quality of life [General & Disease-specific],
  • Reduce Fatigue [ie. Cancer-related fatigue],
  • Improve Sleep quality,
  • Reduction in Psychological stresses [Depression & Anxiety],
  • Reduction in Medical expenditures.

It has been documented that the prescription of both aerobic and resistance-based exercise is important.

When talking about resistance based training, we refer to working/exercising against a resistance/weight, this type of training we focus mainly on improving the persons’ musculoskeletal system and what has been lost during the treatment. When referring to Aerobic based training, you think ‘Cardio’, Basically, we are prescribing exercises putting additional pressure on the cardiovascular system, ie. Heart rate and blood pressure. We also like to involve flexibility and balance training, because due to people undergoing cancer treatment, they tend to lose a substantial amount of muscle known as muscle atrophy and with a reduction in muscle mass and strength, the patient most often loses their control to balance on their own and be able to move like they used to.

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