Though noticing pancreatic cancer symptoms is not easy and straightforward, early detection, especially with cancer, is pivotal for survival. The pancreas, a glandular organ which helps digest food and transform it into energy, is located behind the stomach.
It is known to produce insulin and regulate the hormones which balance the glucose levels. Though rare, pancreatic cancer can still happen and there are a lot of celebrities who have died due to it, including Patrick Swayze, Luciano Pavarotti, and Steve Jobs, as well as Aretha Franklin.
This cancer is expected to overtake the number-two, i.e. colon cancer, as a leading cause for cancer deaths in the US. This is because pancreatic cancer is rather aggressive and comes with a high risk of metastasis. The five-year survival rate is pretty low, i.e. 8.5 percent.
Therefore, it is essential to recognize the early indicating symptoms and get treatment as soon as possible and thus, increase the chances for survival.
The 6 Major Signs of Pancreatic Cancer
- Pain in the abdomen
The pancreas is located near blood vessels and nerves known as the celiac plexus that may cause nerve irritation and pain. And, this pain may be felt in the entire abdominal area. Patients usually report feeling pain under the sternum through to the back.
- Diarrhea and floating stool
The pancreas also produces enzymes that aid the breaking down of fat. This being said, if there is something blocking the release of enzymes, like a tumor, fat will not be digested at all. As a result, the stool may smell bad and float to the top of the toilet bowl and may happen several times per day, shortly after consuming fat-rich meals.
- Weight loss and changes in appetite
If you feel full after eating too little or you feel no hunger at all, there may be a tumor in the pancreas. Namely, the tumor may cause food to go back or not go through to the small intestine.
The pancreas is near the liver which is an organ that produces bile. If a cancer averts the drainage of bile, one may experience higher levels of bilirubin in the body and consequently, jaundice or skin yellowing. The major symptom of jaundice is yellow eye whites and itchiness all over the body, as well as darker urine and light-colored stool.
- Blood clotting
Though the main reason is unknown, people with pancreatic cancer are more prone to blood clots. This may be caused by the reduction in the amount of proteins which the body uses to avert blood clots. So, if you have clots without some of the major triggers for it like trauma, surgery, hospitalization, genetic predisposition or laying for prolonged period of time, you should get checked up to find the underlying cause.
- Diabetes onset
If people with low risk for diabetes (no family history, healthy diet, thin body, etc.) get diagnosed with diabetes or if people with a history of well-controlled diabetes cannot seem to manage the condition, it is good to find out if there is some problem with the pancreas.