Game of Thrones’ Wilko Johnson and 11 Things You Need to Know About Pancreatic Cancer

Wilko Johnson a guitarist and songwriter from the UK rhythm and blues band Dr. Feelgood, one of the founding influences of the British punk movement.

Recently, he may be better known for his role on Game of Thrones, where he plays Ilyn Payne, the mute executioner who had his tongue torn out by Mad King Arys.

But now Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

His manager Robert Hoy released the following statement on Johnson’s Facebook page:

I am very sad to announce that Wilko has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas. He has chosen not to receive any chemotherapy.

He is currently in good spirits, is not yet suffering any physical effects and can expect to enjoy at least another few months of reasonable health and activity.

11 Things You Should Know About Pancreatic Cancer

1. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.

2. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly of all types of cancer. It is estimated that 43,920 men and women (22,090 men and 21,830 women) will be diagnosed with and 37,390 men and women will die of cancer of the pancreas in 2012

3.  Most often, pancreatic cancer starts in the ducts that carry pancreatic juices. This type is called exocrine pancreatic cancer.

Exocrine Gland

The exocrine pancreas produces digestive enzymes and an alkaline fluid , which is referred to as pancreatic juice. The exocrine pancreas secretes these enzymes into the small intestine through a series of tubes called ducts.









4. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose.

5.  There is no reliable screening test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

6.  Symptoms are often vague and easily confused with other diseases:

  • Dark urine and clay-colored stools
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Jaundice (a yellow color in the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes)
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper part of the belly or abdomen
  •  Back pain
  • Blood clots
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion

7.  There are several risk factors for pancreatic cancer

  • Smoking: Smoking tobacco is the most important risk factor for pancreatic cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Family history: Having a mother, father, sister, or brother with pancreatic cancer increases the risk of developing the disease.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas: Pancreatitis is a painful inflammation of the pancreas. Having pancreatitis for a long time may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are slightly more likely than other people to develop pancreatic cancer.

8.  Pancreatic cancer is treatable when caught early. Five-year survival rates approach 40% if the cancers are surgically removed while they are still small and have not spread to the lymph nodes.

9.  Unfortunately pancreatic cancer is often advanced when it is first found.  Very few pancreatic tumors can be removed by surgery. The standard surgical procedure is called a pancreaticoduodenectomy (Whipple procedure).

10. Managing pain and other symptoms is an important part of treating advanced pancreatic cancer. Palliative care tams and hospice can help with pain and symptom management, and provide psychological support for patients and their families during the illness.

11.  Patients with advanced pancreatic cancer may want to participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies testing new treatments. They are an important option for people with all stages of cancer of the pancreas.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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