10 Warning Signs to Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer Before It’s Too Late

Pancreatic cancer is estimated to take the lives of more than 40,000 people in the US alone during 2017. During that same time, it is estimated… Luna - October 9, 2017

Pancreatic cancer is estimated to take the lives of more than 40,000 people in the US alone during 2017. During that same time, it is estimated that over 55,000 new ones will be diagnosed in the US as well. And even though pancreatic cancer accounts for only approximately 3 percent of all cancers in the US, it does account for a whopping 7 percent of all cancer deaths.

The pancreas is an organ located just behind your stomach, and it is pear-shaped. Pancreatic cancer occurs when the cells in the pancreas start multiplying too fast and create a mass. Thus, leading to a cancerous tumor. The pancreas is the organ that our body uses to secrete enzymes and insulin which aid digestion and also helps you process sugar. Whenever pancreatic cancer occurs, these functions are impaired.

Pancreatic cancer usually appears after the age of 45, however, there can be younger patients with this disease. The causes of this cancer are not clear but there are specific factors that do increase its risk. These factors include pancreatitis (chronic inflammation of the pancreas), family history of pancreatic cancer, excessive smoking, obesity, diabetes, and inherited gene mutations. There are also higher risks of developing pancreatic cancer for African-Americans patients.

Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect on an early stage, which means that it is usually caught on a later stage. Additionally, it spreads rapidly and starts affecting more parts of the human body. It is known as a silent disease. However, there are some nonspecific early warning symptoms that can save lives. Below, we mention the 10 most common ones which can help you detect pancreatic cancer on earlier stages. These signs can happen together or separately and should be checked by a professional physician.

1. Pancreatic Cancer: Jaundice

Jaundice is the term that describes the state when the skin and eyes turn a yellow tone. It is very common for those having pancreatic cancer to suffer from jaundice. The main cause of jaundice is usually an excess of bilirubin in the blood. This is caused by irregular bile (a liquid that aids digestion and it’s of a yellowish color. It is released by your liver) going from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Irregular bile can be produced when pancreatic cancer is present in the body. Usually located in the head of the pancreas itself.

However, jaundice is not unique to pancreatic cancer. It is also common for a list of gallbladder and liver diseases. This means that if you suffer from jaundice, it does not have to be pancreatic cancer. Please refer to your physician for tests to find out what the causes behind it are.

Jaundice does not only turn your skin and eyes yellow color. It can also cause itchiness on your feet and hands. But especially on the soles and palms themselves. If all the causes of jaundice are completely ruled out, then make sure to ask your doctor to test you for pancreatic cancer. Together with jaundice, you may also experience nausea and vomiting, which is another of the ten main symptoms of pancreatic cancer. If you do experience this symptom as well, make sure to mention it to your doctor, however common, it can be deciding to better understand which tests to undertake in your specific case. If you are unsure whether your skin or eyes are yellow, make sure to check the white part of your eye, its corner will turn yellow, as well as your nails. Those are some easy indicators to notice the coloring if not very strong yet.

2. Pancreatic Cancer: Diabetes

If nobody in your family has diabetes and you get it out of the blue and for no apparent reason, then it may be a very clear sign of pancreatic cancer. This is because a tumor in your pancreas can lead to the destruction of the cells that make insulin, thus leading to diabetes. Diabetes doesn’t usually appear all of a sudden, it is more of a process. So if you feel like it appeared too quickly, make sure to tell your doctor for further tests to be done.

Some of the symptoms that indicate diabetes onset are urinary urgency, ongoing fatigue, vision problems, and numbness of fingers and toes. If this sounds familiar to you, get an appointment with your physician for a pancreatic cancer regular screening test. During a study published in 2012 in the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, scientists discovered that a very high percentage of pancreatic cancer patients (approximately 80 percent) were suffering from diabetes but had gone almost undiagnosed.

However, diabetes would not only a symptom or effect of pancreatic cancer, but it can also be a cause. People who do have diabetes can, unfortunately, develop pancreatic cancer because of it. So if you do have diabetes already, keep an eye out for pancreatic cancer screenings with your doctor.

Remember, diabetes has very serious consequences on your health already. Adding an extra layer of caution will only help you to control any further unexpected consequences such as pancreatic cancer. Screenings can be held at any doctor’s clinic and do not need to be specialized. Ask for regular screening to stay in check at any given time. If you do not currently have diabetes but believe that you are developing it, do not be afraid to get a doctor’s appointment too.

3. Pancreatic Cancer: Abdominal and Lower Back Pain

Because of the location of the pancreas, it is very usual to get pain in the area. This specific location is in the abdominal cavity. Pain in this area can radiate toward the back. Especially the lower part of your back. Usually, this pain is sharp. This pain is usually more severe at night time, and can be relieved by bending forward. This has been reported by those suffering from this pain.

This pain is explained in a study published in 2001 by the Pancreas journal. Pancreatic cancer patients can experience this acute pain due to the size of the tumor. It can also be experienced because of the invasion of the intra-pancreatic nerves or the anterior pancreatic capsule. However, another reason for the pain can be a lymph node metastasis of pancreatic cancer.

Severe abdominal pain is one of the main symptoms that allow doctors to diagnose pancreatic cancer. This is because those suffering from this pain usually attend the emergency room. By running tests then pancreatic cancer can be detected successfully. Additionally, the exact location of the pain can help locate the tumor itself in the cavity.

If you do experience mild to moderate abdominal and lower back pain, please consult your physician. Even though it is something that could be entirely different, it can also lead to the discovery of pancreatic cancer. The sooner you get to visit your doctor, the sooner you will get an answer about your pain. This can also help you to control it if the reasons for it are other than pancreatic cancer. This pain can also cause dizziness and nausea if it is very sharp. Whenever you feel it, make sure to find a place to sit down and let it pass by bending forward during a few minutes.

4. Pancreatic Cancer: Weight Loss

Mostly every type of cancer can conduct sudden and unexplained weight loss. It is a very noticeable sign for any of them. Including but not only, pancreatic cancer.

There is a very easy and logical explanation behind this reaction in your body. Tumors usually impede the correct functioning of the organs. Not only by growing directly on them but by spreading around them and impairing their normal functions. Because of the location of the pancreas and its cancer, it will affect your proper digestion. By not digesting properly, you will receive less nutrients and feel poor appetite in general.

Additionally, because of the lack of enzymes released by the pancreas, any ingested fats will not be properly broken down. This will lead to dietary fats passing through your body undigested. This is another cause for sudden weight loss as your body is not receiving the needed fats to sustain your normal weight. Cancer cells will also intake nutrients that are meant for healthy cells, resulting again in weight loss.

If you started losing weight without changing your daily routines or diet, you may need to go through a pancreatic cancer screening. Please make sure to consult your doctor for any sudden weight loss. Make sure to have healthy nutrition and have at least three meals a day. Do not over-exercise, especially cardio. If you do follow these guidelines and still lose weight, get some blood tests and regular pancreatic cancer screenings done at your physician of choice.

You may also want to comment on any other symptoms that you may have been feeling recently. Such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and pain. All these will help your doctor determine which diagnosis to follow for your tests and further treatment.

5. Pancreatic Cancer: Nausea and Vomiting

As mentioned above, pancreatic cancer grows within the abdominal cavity. By doing so, it is directly in contact with most of your digestive system organs. Thus, it can lead to blockages in some portions of your digestive tract. This will result in a halt or hamper your proper digestion process.

However, nausea and vomiting are not the only symptoms you may be experiencing. You should add heartburn and acid reflux to the list as well. As they all could come together or in different phases. This doesn’t mean that if you feel sick one day after eating something bad you have pancreatic cancer. Do not take this symptom out of hand if it goes clearly linked to food poisoning or flu.

Instead, if you start feeling like you can’t hold your food down, you stop being hungry, and this doesn’t get solved within a few days, then consult your physician. A blockage in your digestive system isn’t something that would just simply disappear, it would continue if you do have pancreatic cancer. Additionally, if you try to lower your cause using ginger or peppermint tea, as well as only drinking between meals; but you still get nausea, then you will have to visit your doctor for a check-up.

Whenever pancreatic cancer is in a late stage, surgery may be needed to either bypass or remove the blockage. This will help you to control and improve your digestion. So if you feel like you’ve been nauseous for several days or have been vomiting more than usual without relief, please do not hesitate to get an appointment with the physician of your choice to get tested. Your blood may be taken as well as a regular pancreatic cancer screening done. Make sure to stay hydrated in between meals!

6. Pancreatic Cancer: Greasy light-colored stool

Due to the issues concerning your digestive tract, it is very common to get greasy and light-colored stool whenever someone has pancreatic cancer. It does have a distinctive color and texture which is almost unique to pancreatic cancer patients. The reason behind this is that the tumor is blocking the pancreas from secreting its enzymes. The result is a stool that may be large in size, oily, pale, floating, and also smelly.

The enzymes that are usually released by the pancreas are used by the digestive system to digest food. Especially those foods that are high in fatty contents. The look and feel of the stool come from undigested fats that are left in the digestive tract due to pancreatic cancer. Your stool will also be very hard to flush down the toilet because of this reason.

The lack of color also has to do with the smilingly lack of bilirubin. This is also due to pancreatic cancer as explained before. Any minimal change in the color and texture of your stool indicates the state of your health. So if you notice that your stool starts being consistently paler and greasier, please do make sure to contact your doctor.

Additional Information:

Several tests will be made to ensure that it has nothing to do with food intolerance or allergy. Other tests will also be done to check the status of your digestive tract including stomach and intestines. Additionally, if this continues to happen, you will most likely get a pancreatic cancer screening as well. Make sure to inform your doctor of any changes you can see in your bowel movements and keep track of the food you intake if you believe it could be related to pancreatic cancer. Your doctor will be able to lead you in the right way to get all the tests and check-ups done.

7. Pancreatic Cancer: Lack of appetite

As mentioned in several other symptoms, pancreatic cancer unfortunately takes a toll on your digestive system. Because of its location within the abdominal cavity and in the digestive system, pancreatic cancer does and will affect your digestion. Thus, also affects your appetite after all. Your appetite will suffer from a sudden drop. Additionally, you will feel full after eating just a little bit.

Because of the tumor growing very quickly, the space for your organs is reduced. Your stomach will feel the pressure as well as your small intestine. This is related to the digestive blockage explained before. Together with a loss of appetite also comes sudden weight loss. All these symptoms will most likely come together with dizziness and nausea.

By eating less and getting less nutrients in your body, you will most likely feel weak and tired. If you do start feeling this way and can’t force yourself to eat more, please get an appointment with your doctor. Being tired and weak will directly impact your body’s capacity to better accept treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Additional Information:

If you have a sudden weight loss accompanied by a severe lack of appetite, attend a doctor’s clinic. You will get blood tests done as well as a pancreatic cancer screening. You will most likely get treatment straight away to try and get your appetite back. If that doesn’t work, they will check up on any tumors you may have as well as any other diseases that may affect your digestive tract apart from pancreatic cancer. Make sure to keep track of your daily food intake and exercise to keep your health in check. With this in mind, your doctor will be able to diagnose you more clearly and in way less time. Any symptoms you may have felt on top of the lack of appetite should also be considered at this point.

8. Pancreatic Cancer: Urine color

Seemingly to the changes in your stool, changes in your urine also represent different status of your health. From very healthy to sick, urine will have a range of colors which can then be translated into diagnoses. Even if you drink plenty of liquids, your urine may still look dark and slightly orange or brown if you do have pancreatic cancer.

The reason behind it has to do with the buildup of bile. A growing pancreatic cancer can cause the incorrect blockage of bile, which will then not be released in its regular way. As bile needs to be released somehow, it will do so through your urine. Thus resulting in very dark urine. Additionally, also blood traces will be found in your urine and result in proteins appearing in test results. This will also make your urine darker than usual.

If your diet has been the same, and you have not made any special changes. If you keep drinking enough fluids every day (1.5-2 liters). But if you still get dark urine, you will need to get tested. In order to do so, please get an appointment at your doctor’s. You will then be tested not only for urine but also blood and most likely pancreatic cancer screenings will also be done.

Additional Information:

If you get proteins in your urine, it will indicate blood traces have been found. Being a woman, if you are having your period or just had it, please state that when giving urine samples as your period’s blood could affect the results and will need to be repeated on a later date. If you have any sort of infection or inflammation you will also have to advise your doctor’s team about it so it does not affect the results in terms of false diagnosis.

9. Pancreatic Cancer: Fatigue and weakness

If you do have pancreatic cancer, you will definitely feel a general sensation of weakness and fatigue. It will not wear off and you will feel like you need to rest or sleep most of the time. This will happen without you changing your diet or exercise. This is due to several causes explained before. One of the main ones is the lack of appetite, resulting in less food being eaten and thus absorbed. This will produce anemia which has symptoms such as extreme fatigue and weakness.

Your lack of appetite is directly related to pancreatic cancer growing in size within your abdominal cavity. Your weakness is also directly related to its size. Moreover, you may also lack some proper sleep because of the abdominal and lower back pain you may be experiencing due to pancreatic cancer.

Constant and ongoing fatigue or weakness is a symptom of something going sideways in your body. Either pancreatic cancer or something else, you need to get it checked. Make sure to write down everything you do from daily food, exercise, stress-related symptoms, and any other things you may notice. Take the notepad with you to the doctor so everything can be taken into consideration when testing you.

Weakness and fatigue is not only a symptom of pancreatic cancer but also of many other types of cancer. As well as other not-so-serious illnesses. But it is important that you take it seriously and do not let it go unnoticed by your physician. If you feel low in energy and have not changed your routines at all, get an appointment at your doctor’s of choice and request tests done to you. Include a note for pancreatic cancer screenings if you believe you have the symptoms for it.

10. Pancreatic Cancer: Bloating

As we already mentioned in the previous symptoms, pancreatic cancer does and will affect the organs of your digestive system. By taking space in your abdominal cavity, pancreatic cancer will put pressure on the organs around it. Your stomach and small intestines will most likely feel the biggest pressure of them all.

The presence of pancreatic cancer will cause different gastrointestinal symptoms. Some of them were listed before, but new ones are bloating, inflammation of the abdomen, and gases. The first (bloating) and the last (gases) will develop after your meals. They can also be accompanied by indigestion or heartburn. As well as nausea or vomiting. The reason behind this has to do with the inappropriate functioning of your stomach after being blocked by pancreatic cancer itself.

If you notice that bloating is getting worse, or if you never had it before, to begin with, talk to your doctor. Take with you a diary of what you have eaten in the last few days, any drinks, exercise, or medicines that you are taking. Your doctor will most likely take some blood from you to test out. If other diseases have been ruled out from it, you may then be taken through a pancreatic cancer screening.

Pancreatic cancer is a big killer in the US, so it is extremely important to catch it on time. If you believe that you, a relative or a friend may suffer from pancreatic cancer, do make sure to contact a doctor for further tests and information about it. Early prevention and treatment are key for longer life and survival.