Located in the abdomen, behind the stomach, the pancreas is a vital organ serving many essential functions, including the production of hormones that regulate glucose levels as well as the enzymes that aid digestion. Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Its extremely low survival rate makes early detection through an awareness of symptoms extremely important.
Following are the key symptoms and warning signs associated with pancreatic cancer:
1. Yellowish skin and eyes: A condition known as jaundice is often one of the earliest signs of pancreatic cancer. Caused by high bilirubin levels in the body due to the blockage of bile ducts, this condition can cause the skin and the whites of the eyes to become yellowish.
2. Abdominal pain: Pancreatic cancer may cause persistent and worsening abdominal pain, usually occurring on the upper left side or middle of the abdomen. The pain may radiate to the back, shoulders, chest, or other parts of the body.
3. Dark urine and light-colored stool: If blood is present within bile ducts due to a tumor in or near the pancreas, it can lead to dark urine as well as pale-colored stool.
4. Fatigue and weakness: Fatigue and weakness are two common general symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer. This can be due to low red blood cell counts as a result of tumor tissue blocking normal pancreatic processes.
5. Nausea and vomiting: The presence of a tumor on or near the pancreas may interfere with normal digestive processes and cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and bloating after eating.
6. Unintended weight loss: Another common symptom of pancreatic cancer is unexplained, uncontrolled weight loss, often brought on by a poor appetite or difficulty digesting food properly.
7. Bloating and indigestion: Early signs of pancreatic cancer include a feeling of fullness after eating small amounts of food, along with abdominal discomfort and indigestion.
8. Blood-clotting abnormalities: Pancreatic tumors may cause a reduction in the production of platelets and proteins in your blood known as coagulation factors, which can lead to an increased risk of bleeding and bruising easily.
9. Diarrhea and constipation: Blockage or obstruction of the pancreas by tumors may interfere with digestion, leading to changes in bowel movements, including frequent diarrhea, constipation, or both. Many people experience digestive issues as early signs of pancreatic cancer, pointing to their body’s inability to digest food properly.
10. Itching: Jaundice caused by high bilirubin levels is often associated with severe itching, typically starting on the hands and feet before spreading over other parts of the body.
11. Loss of appetite and unpleasant taste in mouth: Pancreatic cancer can cause a loss of appetite and cravings for foods with strong flavors, as well as an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
12. Abdominal swelling: Tumor growth near or on the pancreas can lead to abdominal swelling due to fluid buildup in the abdomen, known as ascites. This is usually accompanied by pain and discomfort in the stomach area.
13. Back pain and difficulty breathing: Pancreatic tumors that grow very large may press against other organs in the abdomen and cause mild to severe back pain. They can also block the flow of air going into and out of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
14. Abnormal blood sugar levels: Pancreatic cancer may interfere with the normal production of insulin and glucagon, leading to abnormally high or low levels of blood sugar, which can cause confusion, dizziness, sweating, and hunger.
15. Enlarged liver and spleen: As pancreatic cancer progresses, tumors may spread to other organs in the abdomen and cause them to become enlarged. This can lead to an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, pain, and difficulty breathing.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with a mere 10% survival rate when detected late. An early diagnosis can greatly increase the chances of recovery, which is why it is essential to familiarize yourself with the symptoms and early warning signs detailed above, as well as to seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity should you be experiencing any of them. Early intervention can make all the difference when it comes to treating pancreatic cancer successfully.
Despite the reputation of this cruel illness, there is hope for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With the help of improved screening methods and therapies, early detection and swift treatment gives people improved chances of beating this disease. Taking proactive measures to identify potential signs of pancreatic cancer is the crucial first step on the way to recovery and back to health.