Pancreatic cancer is cancer which begins in the pancreas organ. It is a particularly dangerous form of cancer, because in many cases there are few symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage, and because the five-year survival rate is only 5%. Every year, about 43,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and nearly 37,000 die.
Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer occurs too deep within the abdomen to be easily felt, and it often produces few symptoms until it has progressed or spread to other parts of the body. In addition, it is relatively difficult to find the cancer in its early stages without performing complex tests. Nevertheless, there are a number of signs of pancreatic cancer, which tend to become more noticeable and more difficult to cope with as the disease progresses.
The three most common first signs of pancreatic cancer are jaundice, abdominal pain, and unexpected weight loss. Jaundice refers to a condition in which the skin and the eyes take on a yellow tinge as a result of reduced functioning of the liver. According to the American Cancer Society, about half of pancreatic cancer victims will experience jaundice, although it is also – and more commonly – caused by a range of other diseases, and can even be a side effect of some prescription medications.
In addition, abdominal pain is a sign of pancreatic cancer. This pain may occur in the belly area, but it may also seem to be coming from the lower or middle back. Weight loss can also result from pancreatic cancer. Again, however, in both cases such symptoms are common to a wide variety of other conditions, as well as being side effects of medication. Pain from a pancreatic tumour often occurs only after the tumour has grown to a relatively large size.
A number of other noticeable complications of pancreatic cancer also exist, but are less common. Pancreatic cancer may result in nausea or vomiting due to a disrupted digestive system, diabetes due to disrupted blood sugar levels, an enlarged gall bladder, and increased risk of blood clots. The Mayo Clinic states that dark-coloured urine may also be a sign of pancreatic cancer, among many other conditions.
If you are concerned that you have signs of pancreatic cancer, it is essential that you discuss your concerns with your doctor. Although the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are also caused by other, more common and less harmful ailments, an early diagnosis is the key to improved chances of survival. Your doctor may order liver tests as well as a CT scan or an ultrasound to search for a tumour, as well as a biopsy of suspected tissue, if any.
– Sources and More Information –
American Cancer Society. “Signs of Pancreatic Cancer.”
Mayo Clinic. “Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms.”
University of California, San Francisco. “Pancreatic Cancer – Signs and Symptoms.”