11 Warning Signs Of Pancreatic Cancer In Early Stage
Pancreatic cancer has claimed the lives of many people, including a number of popular individuals like businessman Steve Jobs of Apple and actor Patrick Swayze of the movies Dirty Dancing and Ghost. Their cancers were already at an advanced stage when they were diagnosed. Pancreatic cancers spread stealthily in the body; they do not show early warning signs particular to the condition.
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
The pancreas is an organ in the body located between the stomach and the backbone. It is surrounded by the liver, the intestine, and other organs. It has two different kinds of glands, the exocrine and the endocrine.
Cancer can form in both the exocrine and endocrine cells of the pancreas. These tumors have their own signs and symptoms and are treated in different ways. Cancers in the endocrine are easy to detect, but they are rare. Cancers formed by the exocrine cells that carry pancreatic juices are much more common, but they are much harder to detect because they show no early symptoms. Prognosis of most of these types of pancreatic cancer is poor, and the chance for recovery is very small. It typically results in death within five years.
There is a long list of strange signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer to watch out for. Most of them can be similar to signs and symptoms caused by some diseases and conditions other than cancer. Here are 11 of them:
1. Sudden onset of diabetes with no family history – Pancreatic cancers cause high blood sugar because they destroy the insulin-making cells. Diabetic symptoms can include feeling thirsty and hungry, and having to urinate often. If diabetes doesn’t run in your family, go and check with your doctor immediately.
2. Jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin – Jaundice is caused by the buildup of a dark yellow-brown substance made in the liver. Cancers that start in the head of the pancreas can push on the bile duct and cause jaundice while they are still small. The appearance of this symptom may cause the tumors to be found at an early, treatable stage. But those that start in the body or the tail of the pancreas don’t push the bile duct and don’t cause jaundice early enough so that the cancers spread freely and escape discovery until they are in the advanced stage.
3. Swelling of the gall bladder – The same thing that causes jaundice also causes the gallbladder to swell. On the positive side, an enlarged gall bladder can be seen and felt on imaging tests and physical exams which can lead to early diagnosis of cancer.
4. Skin irritation or itchiness – Itchy hands and feet are the side effects of jaundice, so be aware where you scratch!
5. Dark-colored urine – Darkening of the urine is another symptom brought about by jaundice. Check before you flush!
6. Diminished appetite – Be aware of a sudden loss of appetite with no rational explanation. Other pancreatic cancer patients observe a lack of interest in food and a quick feeling of satiety.
7. Arbitrary loss of weight – Most people usually want to lose weight, but if you are not trying to lose weight and still losing pounds for no reason at all, this should be a cause for worry.
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8. Minor pain in the abdomen – Cancer can grow rather large and may start pushing on the surrounding organs and cause pain in the back and in the abdomen. Don’t ignore even if the pain is minimal.
9. Pale, loose and seemingly weightless stool – This usually happens when we are unable to digest fatty foods. This is a sign that digestive enzymes are not reaching the intestines; something is preventing them. Maybe it is time to pay more attention to your stool.
10. Nausea and vomiting – Cancer can press on the stomach and block it, preventing food to pass through which triggers nausea followed by vomiting. If you are a woman, don’t always consider vomiting as a symptom of pregnancy.
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11. Blood clots – Sometimes, the appearance of blood clots may be a sign of pancreatic cancer. They usually form on the veins on the leg. Not to be mistaken with varicose veins.
These symptoms are common and can very well mean many things. But when you experience two or three of them, it is always good to be on the cautious side and tell your doctor about them and ask for a screening for pancreatic cancer. Hopefully, they are not causes of worry and if they are, hopefully, they will be caught early enough to save your life.