Life & Style

Johnny Clegg dies of pancreatic cancer – what are the signs and symptoms?


Known as the ‘White Zulu’, the music legend stood against apartheid and continuously worked to cross racial divides. Clegg was born in Bacup, Lancashire, England on 7 June 1953. He moved to South Africa with his mother when he was a child and grew up in Johannesburg. He attracted international stardom through his music and performances that united people who were against South Africa’s apartheid.

The singer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015. Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the pancreas.

It has the lowest survival of all common cancers, with five-year survival less than seven per cent. Pancreatic cancer is the 11th most common cancer in England with around 8500 people diagnosed each year.

Cancer of the pancreas is difficult to treat and it rarely causes any symptoms in the early stages, so it’s often not detected until the cancer is fairly advanced.

The NHS said: “Pancreatic cancer is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled grown of cells in the pancreas – a large gland that’s part of the digestive system.”

Pancreatic Cancer UK said: “Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in England with 7800 deaths every year. The age-standardised mortality rate is 15.4 per 100,000 population.

“Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest common cancer, with the lowest survival of all common cancers. One-year survival in England is only 23.7 per cent and five-year survival is only 6.9 per cent.”

A media statement released by Clegg’s family said: “It is with immense sadness that we confirm that Jonathan Clegg, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 on the afternoon of 16 July at his family home in Johannesburg.

“Jonny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers him/herself to be an African. He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity.”

According to the American Cancer Society, signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Jaundice
  • Belly or back pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Gallbladder or liver enlargement
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes
  • Indigestion

Early pancreatic cancers often do not cause major signs or symptoms. By the time they do cause symptoms, they have often grown very large or already spread outside the pancreas.

Despite being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Clegg continued to tour and perform around the world to pay homage to his fans worldwide.

Clegg received many honours over his lifetime including being nominated for a Grammy, being named an officer of the Order of the British Empire and receiving South Africa’s highest civilian medal, the presidential Ikhamanga Award.

The NHS said: “It’s not fully understood what causes pancreatic cancer, but a number of risk factors for developing the condition have been identified.

“The risk factors include age, being overweight, smoking and having a history of certain health conditions.

“If you suspect you have any of these symptoms which could be a sign of pancreatic cancer, it’s important to speak with your GP.”

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