Whenever people are diagnosed with cancer, it is concerning both for the patient as well as for their family. Many types of cancer are hard to detect and treat at first, so it is very important to know the symptoms and the preventive measures one can take. There are so many cases of people even being unaware of their cancer spreading, like this woman who now warns people about the deadlines of skin cancer. Not all cancers are the same, and there are so many things you can do to help yourself. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest one among men and women. Here are some more facts and signs that you might be heading for a doctor’s check.
This cancer is hard to detect and treat, and the survival rate of the disease is very low, hovering between 7 – 25%.
The pancreas is a part of the digestive system and is buried within the abdominal cavity. It sits behind the stomach and in the upper part of your abdomen. Its location makes it hard to feel before it’s grown large enough to interfere with your normal bodily functions. Additionally, there is no screening test for this cancer type.
Looking for clues to pancreatic cancer is extremely vital to early detection and treatment. Additionally, some of the signs and symptoms of this cancer can resemble other health conditions like diabetes, cirrhosis, or liver disease. Therefore, it’s important to have things checked out if you notice any abnormalities.
Here are some of its warning signs.
1. Sudden onset diabetes
Pancreatic cancer can interfere with insulin production and blood sugar levels, which leads to a new onset of diabetes. This is commonly seen in patients over age 50. If you extra thirsty or hungry, it could be a sign of diabetes, too.
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A cancerous tumor may block the bile duct, causing a backup of bile (and bilirubin) in the system. Jaundice, which is yellowing of the eyes and skin, is caused by that backed up bile leaking into the bloodstream.
3. Loss of weight and appetite
This symptom is common to most cancers and can quickly turn into anorexia, especially in advanced stages of the disease. Tumors on the pancreas may inhibit digestive processes, but cancerous cells may also steal nutrients from the rest of the body. This eventually leads to a decrease in weight or appetite.
4. Pale, floating stools
A blockage in the bile duct caused by a tumor will also prevent bilirubin from reaching the digestive tract. Bilirubin, which is a yellowish-brown substance contained in bile, gives stools their color. When it’s absent from the digestive tract, stools may be gray or whitish, and float because of undigested fats.
5. Itchy skin
Itchiness is connected to a blocked bile duct as well. When bile salts build up in your body, they can gather in the skin, causing itching.
6. Abdominal pain
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Many pancreatic cancer patients experience some form of abdominal pain, typically in the upper abdomen. It may disappear when you lean forward, or worsen after you eat or lie down.
7. Blood clot
For some people, blood clots are the earliest sign of pancreatic cancer. If you notice painful swelling, redness, or warmth in the leg, it could be due to a blood clot.
8. Back pain
Back pain may or may not accompany abdominal pain with this cancer. You may also notice pain the middle of the back as a result of the cancer pressing on the nerves or organs.
9. Discolored urine
Dark urine is the result of bilirubin being prevalent in the bloodstream. Look out for brown urine.
Those who have an increased risk for pancreatic cancer include:
- Cigarette smokers
- Adults over age 50
- Genetic predisposition – individuals with BRCA gene mutations
- Obese individuals
The list above is not exhaustive as every person reacts differently.