Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas, a pear-shaped organ located behind the lower part of your stomach.
Pancreatic cells begin to multiply out of control and form a mass, resulting in a cancerous tumor. This cancer can interfere with the two main functions of secretory pancreatic enzymes that help digestion and insulin that helps your body process sugar.
It almost always happens after the age of 45, although it can also affect young people.
It is still unclear what causes this cancer, but some factors increase your risk. Such factors include obesity, chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), diabetes, family history of pancreatic cancer and hereditary genetic mutations, and excessive smoking. African Americans are also at a higher risk.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early and it spreads quickly rapidly, affecting other parts of the body. That’s why it’s called a silent disease.
There are some warning signs for pancreatic cancer, but people often do not know because the symptoms are so intimate. Awareness of these early symptoms can help save many precious lives.
Here are the top 10 warning signs of pancreatic cancer that you should know about.
It is common for people with pancreatic cancer to experience jaundice, characterized by yellowing of the eyes or skin. Jaundice can also be itchy on the hands and feet, especially the palms and soles.
Any tumor size located in the head of the pancreas can result in an irregular bile (a yellowish brown fluid released by your liver to aid digestion) that flows from the gall bladder into the small intestine. This causes an excess of bilirubin accumulation in the blood, one of the main causes of jaundice.
If you have signs of jaundice, talk to your doctor because it is a common symptom of many liver and gall bladder diseases as well as a sign of pancreatic cancer. If other causes are excluded, ask your doctor to test for pancreatic cancer.
2. Abdominal and lower back pain
Abdominal and back pain are also common symptoms in patients with pancreatic cancer. Usually, acute pain is felt in the upper abdomen, which gradually shines backwards.
Many patients also report that the pain is more severe at night and that they receive mild pain relief by leaning forward.
A 2001 study published in the journal “Pancreas” revealed that abdominal pain in patients with pancreatic cancer may be due to the growing size of the tumor, intrapancreatic nerve invasion, invasion of the anterior pancreatic capsule and metastasis of the lymph nodes.
If you have persistent, mild to moderate abdominal pain, see a doctor. Most cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in patients who visit the emergency room complaining of severe abdominal pain.
In fact, the localization of pain is helpful in determining where a tumor is.
3. Nausea and vomiting
Nausea followed by vomiting is another sign of pancreatic cancer. As the tumor grows, it can block parts of the digestive tract, hindering the overall digestive process.
With nausea and vomiting, you may also experience heartburn and acid reflux.
As any type of interference with normal digestion and excretion processes can cause vomiting, all episodes of nausea and vomiting are not necessarily related to cancer.
Try mint or ginger tea as well as limiting your water intake with meals, but drink water between meals to reduce nausea.
If these symptoms tend to worsen after eating, it is difficult for you to eat anything without vomiting, consult your doctor.
In advanced cases of pancreatic cancer, surgery may be necessary to get around the blockage and improve digestion.
4. Sudden and unexplained weight loss
Unexplained weight loss is another notable warning sign of different types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.
Weight loss often occurs when a tumor spreads to nearby organs and hinders their function. This affects the proper digestion of nutrients and also causes a lack of appetite.
In addition, due to the lack of pancreatic enzymes helping digestion, dietary fats begin to pass through the undigested body, resulting in weight loss. In addition, cancer cells compete with healthy cells for nutrients.
If you started losing weight suddenly without making any changes to your diet or physical activity, consult your doctor.
5. oily or light-colored stools
The stools of people with pancreatic cancer have distinct characteristics. Stools can become large, pale, oily, floating, and smelly, as the growing tumor prevents the pancreas from releasing its digestive enzymes.
These enzymes are needed to digest foods, especially fatty foods. The undigested fat eventually ends up in your stool, which makes it float or seems oily. These oily stools are difficult to eliminate.
In addition, the stool turns a lighter color due to lack of bilirubin.
As the color and consistency of your stool indicates a lot about your health, any type of bowel change should be reported to your doctor.
6. Changes in urine color
In addition to changes in your stool, you may notice changes in your urinary color, despite having enough fluid during the day. Your urine may become darker and take on an orange or brown hue.
A growing pancreatic tumor can cause blockage of bile and not be released from your body the way it should be. Too much bilirubin in the body can enter your urine and make it look dark. Sometimes there may be traces of blood in your urine.
If you notice that your urine has become darker without any dietary explanation, it is important to discover the cause behind it.
7. Lack of appetite
People with pancreatic cancer also notice a sudden drop in their appetite and a tendency to feel full after eating very little.
As the tumor begins to grow, it can cause pressure on the stomach or small intestine, causing blockage in the digestive tract. This can cause a complete sensation after eating very little and cause a significant loss of appetite as well as weight loss.
Remember, significant changes in appetite can make a person weak and tired, which can even hinder treatment as well as recovery.
This is why it is essential to consult your doctor if you have a persistent and decreased appetite combined with significant weight loss.
Because the pancreas is an integral part of the digestive system, the presence of a tumor can cause several gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating, gas, and inflammation in the abdomen.
Bloating and gas usually develop after eating a meal and may even be accompanied by heartburn or indigestion.
These symptoms occur when the pancreatic tumor begins to exert pressure on the stomach and abdomen, making it difficult for the stomach to function properly.
If bloat is new to you and does not improve with the medication, you should return to see your doctor.
9. Constant fatigue and weakness
General weakness and fatigue, with no change in diet and physical activity, may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer.
In this context, fatigue may be due to the growing growth of the tumor itself, lack of sleep due to pain or other reasons, and anemia due to loss of appetite.
Poor consumption also takes a toll on your energy level and you may feel the need to rest and sleep more than usual.
If you feel weak and tired even after sleeping and resting, consult your doctor to assess the problem.
This can be a sign of a variety of cancers as well as other health problems. Early diagnosis increases the success rate of treatment.
10. Diabetes suddenly and inexplicably
Diabetes diagnosed very suddenly for no apparent reason and no family history of the disease can be a warning sign of pancreatic cancer. A tumor can destroy insulin-creator cells in your pancreas, leading to diabetes.
Symptoms such as constant fatigue, urinary urgency, numbness in the fingers and toes, and vision problems may signal the onset of diabetes. If a diagnosis of sudden and unexplained diabetes, opt for regular screening for pancreatic cancer.
In a 2018 study published in “Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology”, researchers found that about 80% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are identified as having concomitant diabetes with poor prognosis.
This study also focuses on diabetes as a potential cause and effect of pancreatic cancer.