Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer Explained As Willie Garson of 'Sex and the City' Dies

Actor Willie Garson has died at the age of 57 due to pancreatic cancer, according to reports.

SATC executive producer Michael Patrick King, who also produced the comedy-drama series And Just Like That... which also starred Garson, told Variety of Garson's "spirit and his dedication to his craft."

The disease is listed as the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Pancreatic cancer is a cancer that is found anywhere in the pancreas, an organ located in the abdomen between the stomach and the intestines. It's responsible for making enzymes that help us digest food, as well as producing hormones that help us regulate blood sugar.

When pancreatic cancer occurs, a tumor begins to grow out of control in the pancreas which can spread to other organs and cause problems.

According to the U.K. National Health Service (NHS), pancreatic cancer may cause symptoms such as yellow coloration in the whites of the eyes, itchy skin, darker urine, and paler feces than usual.

It can also cause symptoms such as stomach or back pain, loss of appetite or weight loss, lack of energy, high temperature, or nausea. On the other hand, pancreatic cancer may not have any symptoms.

For this reason, catching the disease early is challenging and warning signs may not be caught until the cancer has already progressed or spread, Johns Hopkins Medicine states.

The NHS advises people to see a doctor if the whites of their eyes turn yellow, if they're sick for more than two days or have diarrhea for more than seven days, if they have lost a noticeable amount of weight over half a year or more without trying, or experience other symptoms of pancreatic cancer that don't improve after two weeks.

The causes of pancreatic cancer are not currently known, the American Cancer Society states, but many risk factors have been identified. A risk factor is anything that increases someone's chances of getting a disease like cancer.

Different cancers have different risk factors, and some can be avoided via lifestyle changes.

Smoking, for example, is listed as one of the most important risk factors for pancreatic cancer by the American Cancer Society. The organization states the risk of getting the disease is about twice as high in people who smoke compared to people who have never smoked, and about 25 percent of pancreatic cancers are thought to be caused by cigarette smoking.

It also states that being obese is another risk factor, and people who are deemed obese based on a BMI of 30 or more are about 20 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

But there are some risk factors that can't be changed. These include age, gender, and inherited genetics through families. Almost all pancreatic cancer patients are over 45 and men are slightly more likely to get it than women.

Survival rates differ between patients. Some outlive their prognosis or even become disease-free, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, but many cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed at a relatively late stage, which makes a good prognosis less likely.

Pancreatic cancer has led to the deaths of other prominent figures including television presenter Alex Trebek and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Doctor holding pancreas model
A stock photo shows a doctor holding a model of a pancreas. The organ is responsible for regulating blood sugar and producing digestive enzymes. Shidlovski/Getty