Pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose, and it is often detected a bit too late (when it has already spread to a stage where the cure is nearly impossible.)
Pancreatic cancer occurs when the pancreas’ healthy cells stop working properly and start growing at an alarming rate until they form tumors which, in turn, start spreading to other body parts. As the tumors grow larger, their impact on the functions of other organs grows worse as well, resulting in various painful issues.
The horrible thing about this type of cancer is that early stages often don’t cause any symptoms, yet, as soon as symptoms start showing up, it means that cancer has already spread beyond the pancreas.
Keep in mind that the most important thing, besides exercise and nutrition, is to listen to your body and pay attention to any changes. Click through the next pages to reveal the 10 signs of pancreatic cancer that you should watch out for.
11 – Jaundice
Jaundice is when the eyes and skin turn yellow. The majority of individuals who suffer from pancreatic cancer will experience jaundice as an early symptom. What causes jaundice? It occurs due to the accumulation of bilirubin, a dark brown-yellow material made in the liver.
When cancer starts in pancreas’ head, it can press on the bile duct and cause jaundice while it’s still small, which makes it easier to detect the tumor early enough. However, when cancer starts in the pancreas’ tail or body, it doesn’t press on the duct until it has spread through the entire pancreas and even beyond.
As pancreatic cancer spreads beyond the pancreas, its next target is often the liver. This can also cause jaundice.
10 – Dark Urine
In some cases, dark urine is the first sign of jaundice due to the increased levels of bilirubin in the blood. When the levels of bilirubin reach are extremely high in the blood, the color of urine turns brown. Darker urine is actually a common sign of pancreatic cancer.
According to medical experts, if you notice your urine becoming dark brown too often, it’s recommended that you visit your primary healthcare provider as soon as possible for a proper examination.
9 – Light-colored or Greasy Stools
Normal levels of bilirubin actually help give stools the brown color that we are familiar with. Remember the bile duct we mentioned earlier? If it is blocked, stools may turn gray or switch to a lighter color.
Moreover, when the pancreatic enzymes and bile duct are unable to travel smoothly to the intestines in order to help dissimilate fats, the stools are likely to become greasy (floating stools means they’re greasy.)
8 – Itchy Skin
When bilirubin accumulates in the skin, the patient would start experiencing yellowing and itchiness. However, the most common cause of jaundice is not pancreatic cancer. There are many other causes that are much more common, including hepatitis, gallstones, and other liver and bile duct diseases.
If your skin starts to become yellow and itchy, you should consult a doctor immediately. According to experts, such symptoms can indicate pancreatic cancer and need to be treated properly.
7 – Stomach or Back Pain
One of the common symptoms people with pancreatic cancer experience is pain in their back or belly. When cancer begins the pancreas’ tail or body, it can grow larger and start to put pressure on the neighboring organs, resulting in pain.
Besides organs, cancer might also extend to the nerves surrounding the pancreas, causing back pain. It should be noted that stomach or back pain often has other causes than pancreatic cancer.
6 – Weight Loss and Poor Appetite
Losing weight and/or appetite quickly and unexpectedly is never a good sign. Sudden weight loss is also common in people who suffer from pancreatic cancer, and this symptom is often accompanied by little or no appetite.
In fact, the pancreas affects our bodily functions in various ways, so when cancer spreads to this crucial organ it can decrease appetite and promote weight loss. If you ever notice you’re losing weight without any visible explanation, you should seek out medical help as soon as you can.
5 – Nausea and Vomiting
We’ve already mentioned how cancer can press on different parts of an organ, which can have different effects on your body. In case cancer puts pressure on the far end of your stomach, the latter can get blocked in part, which makes it extremely difficult for food to find a way through.
This can result in vomiting, nausea, and pain. These uncomfortable symptoms usually get worse after meals.
4 – Gallbladder or Liver Enlargement
The gallbladder can become larger when cancer succeeds to block the bile duct, causing the bile to accumulate in the organ. Gallbladder or liver enlargement can sometimes be easily detected during a physical exam as the doctor would be able to touch it, and it can also be seen clearly on imaging tests.
In some cases, pancreatic cancer can also cause the liver to grow larger if it has spread to the latter organ.
3 – Blood Clots
Although it’s not very common, one of the earliest signs that a person has pancreatic cancer is a blood clot, which often occurs in legs’ veins. This condition is known as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis.) Among its symptoms, we find swelling, warmth, redness, and pain in the affected area.
In some cases, a bit of the clot can unchain itself and travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism), resulting in chest pain and difficulty breathing. Nevertheless, a blood clot is not necessarily a sign of cancer. The vast majority of blood-clot cases have other causes.
2- Fatty Tissue Abnormalities
Some individuals who suffer from pancreatic cancer start experiencing an irregular texture of the fatty tissue that starts building up underneath their skin. This comes as a result of the production of the pancreatic enzymes which digest fat. When this process is interrupted, the fat starts to form in an abnormal way inside the body.
1 – Diabetes
This is actually a rare symptom of pancreatic cancer. Only a few people can develop diabetes while struggling with pancreatic cancer. This happens because cancer can alter blood sugar levels by damaging the insulin-making cells, triggering diabetes. Symptoms include increased thirst and hunger, as well as frequent trips to the toilet.
What’s more common, however, is the fact that this cancer can cause small changes in blood sugar levels which can be detected with blood tests but don’t lead to diabetes.