Health is Wealth: Liver and Pancreatic Cancer
As we age, it is normal to be more exposed to different health risks. One might say that we are not superhumans, but we can control our health as early as possible. And with the recent onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in the whole world, we have seen how important it is to take care of our bodies and have a healthy lifestyle.
Every part of our body is vital to sustaining our life. As they say in a famous saying, “Health is wealth.” And today, let’s take a closer look at why it is crucial to take care of our liver and pancreas to prevent liver and pancreatic cancer.
The liver and the pancreas serve our body by digesting and distributing different nutrients throughout our body. And to understand why it’s essential to take care of these organs, let’s get to know more about their functions.
Our liver is the largest internal organ in our body, and it sits under our ribs, near our right lung. It is an understatement to say that a person cannot live without a liver because it’s true. The liver serves a lot of functions in our body.
One of the essential functions of a liver is breaking down and storing nutrients absorbed from the intestine. These nutrients are needed for our body to function normally. The purpose of the liver is to metabolize these nutrients so they can be used as energy or to build and repair body tissues. Another purpose of our liver is to produce clotting factors. These clotting factors keep us from bleeding too much when cut or injured.
It also absorbs fast and delivers bile into the intestines. And most importantly, the liver helps our body break down alcohol, drugs, and other unhealthy and toxic junk in our body. These junks then turn into urine and stool.
The pancreas is this small organ that sits behind the stomach. An adult pancreas can size up to 6 inches. Looks can be deceiving because that small organ holds a lot of responsibilities and functions to make our body work normally.
One of the essential roles of the pancreas is to help our digestion. When we digest foods, the pancreas makes many pancreatic juices called enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for breaking down sugar, fats, and starches. We all love eating, and most of the food we love is full of fats, sugar, and starches, so we literally cannot survive without our pancreas.
Another function of the pancreas is to help our digestive system make hormones. These hormones are important to function as a chemical messenger that travels around our body. As these hormones travel, it sends signals that regulate our sugar levels, our appetite, stimulate stomach acids, and even tell when your stomach is empty.
Both the liver and pancreas are indeed important. If one of these organs becomes exposed to health risks such as cancer, it will be detrimental to our body.
Both cancers can happen due to different circumstances.
First, liver cancer happens when the cells in the liver change (mutations) their DNA. We all know that a cell’s DNA is the material that provides and distributes instructions for every chemical process that happens in our body. When DNA mutates, these instructions change. Once it’s changed, the cells will become out of control and eventually form tumors. This tumor is a mass of cancerous cells.
There are some cases of liver cancer where the cause is unknown. The patient can be healthy and have no underlying diseases, but they are still exposed to liver cancer. But the common causes are chronic hepatitis infections, cirrhosis, inherited liver diseases, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, and more.
Second, pancreatic cancer happens when the pancreas mutates and grows abnormally. Since it grows, there is room for a tumor to grow. The exact causes of pancreatic cancer are still relatively unknown in the current studies, but there are many factors why it happens.
The factors include aging, chemical exposure, diabetes, unhealthy diet, genetics, gender, deficiency of nutrients, obesity, pancreatitis (which is a chronic inflammation of the pancreas), and smoking. If these risk factors are combined or primarily present in your body, you will likely develop pancreatic cancer.
That is why we always say that “Health is wealth.” To lessen or prevent the risks, here’s what you can do.
Liver Cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, and while in Singapore, it is the fourth most common type of cancer among men. It affects about 24 individuals in every 100,000 people a year. Pancreatic cancer is not as common as liver cancer in Singapore, but the chance of surviving after curative surgery for pancreatic cancer is only at 20%. Most patients with advanced inoperable pancreatic cancer do not live beyond a year. That is why it is essential to know how to prevent these risks.
When someone is infected with Hepatitis B, it leads to a severe liver disease that is truly detrimental to our health. A person can get this from an infected person’s blood and other body fluids. It can also spread by sharing different intimate items such as toothbrushes or razors with an infected person.
As part of the Singapore National Childhood Immunization Schedule (NCIS), all children in Singapore must receive three doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine at appropriate intervals. They should give the first instantly at birth, and then all doses will be complete within the baby’s first six months. But there are cases where it can take longer than six months.
As part of the Singapore National Adult Immunization Schedule (NAIS), all adults in Singapore are required to get vaccinated if they haven’t received a vaccination or if there is no proof that they have already received one. They should also receive three doses to gain immunity.
The counterpart for Hepatitis B is Hepatitis C, which is also the number one cause of liver disease in the world. While Hepatitis B has a vaccine to prevent and gain immunity from the disease, Hepatitis C does not have one.
You can accumulate both Hepatitis B and C from transferring body fluids from an infected person to another. And usually, the number one at risk of these are people infected with HIV. That is why it is always advised to practice safe sex. Use contraceptives to lessen the transfer of bodily fluids from one person to another. It is also recommended to get tested before engaging in such acts and be honest with your partner, especially if you are sexually active.
There is no shame for being sexually active but let us ensure that we are not putting other people at risk. Practice safe sex and get vaccinated.
Both pancreatic and liver cancer will happen if you are a chain smoker. It is hard to quit, but you have to be serious about taking care of your health. It is also advisable to stop as early as possible because the withdrawal symptoms will worsen as long as you prolong it. Secondhand smoke can also cause liver and pancreatic cancer, so it is also better if you can convince your friends or your loved ones to quit smoking too.
In Singapore, there are many health and rehabilitation programs that you can join to stop smoking. You might want to inquire in the I Quit Programme of Health Hub Singapore to know more about ways to quit smoking.
Let’s forget about the saying, “Drink now, suffer later,” because we believe there are more ways to enjoy a night than drinking too much alcohol. As we have stated earlier, the liver recognizes alcohol as toxic junk, and too much alcohol causes excessive free radicals and acetaldehyde, which eventually causes aberrant cellular function. Once we realize that chronic alcohol drinking causes liver cirrhosis and a subsequent increase in the risk of HCC, then we can start taking matters into our hands.
Also, too much alcohol intake causes fatty liver, and it can also cause chronic pancreatitis, which increases the risk for pancreatic cancers. All of the mentioned risks can be preventable if we start drinking responsibly. There is more to life than drinking, and rather than spending the nights intoxicated, you can instead choose to bond with your friends or loved ones healthily.
People often underestimate the power of exercising. It matters because obesity and being underweight can cause different illnesses, including liver and pancreatic cancer. Especially now that we are mostly at home because of the pandemic, we forget to move our bodies and engage in different physical activities. To be active, you can start by working out in the comforts of your own home. Nowadays, there are various applications that we can download to help us begin our exercise routine.
Avoid eating sugary, fatty, and processed meals as much as possible. If it is not avoidable due to your living conditions, at least regulate the intake of foods like this to prevent getting cancer. Start by eating fresh produce such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other healthier options.
You can also start taking supplements and vitamins that can help your pancreas and liver, such as supplemental pancreatic enzymes, protein shakes, vitamin D, and more. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to know what’s best for you.
It is so easy for us to say, “Health is Wealth,” and not live by the saying. We often take for granted our health and abuse our bodies to the limits. We need to take care of our bodies, and that’s a fact.
Now is the perfect time to build a healthy relationship with our bodies. We can start loving ourselves by taking care of our bodies. And once we do, everything will be worth it. Not only can we prevent cancer like liver and pancreatic cancer, but we can also enjoy our lives without any worries.
For more health tips and sign up for our “Health is Wealth” program. The Health is Wealth series aims to talk about different illnesses and health conditions that we need to know more about as an individual. For more information, visit our website, Apexwpm.com.
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1 American Cancer Society. (2019, February 11). Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html
2 American Cancer Society. (2019, April 1). What Is Liver Cancer? American Cancer Society. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/about/what-is-liver-cancer.html
3 American Cancer Society. (2020, June 9). Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Prevented? American Cancer Society. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html
4 Mayo Clinic. (2021, May 18). Liver cancer – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20353659
5 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (n.d.). Liver Cancer Prevention & Risk Factors. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/liver/risk-factors-prevention
Apex Private Wealth Management is an authorised group of Financial Adviser representatives from Professional Investment Advisory Services Pte Ltd
 American Cancer Society. (2020, June 9). Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Prevented? American Cancer Society. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html