Pancreatic cancer is a well-known and particularly lethal disease that often eludes early detection. Here are several symptoms to remain vigilant about:
A prevalent indicator of pancreatic cancer is jaundice. This condition results in a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes due to a buildup of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced by the liver. Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, an esteemed oncologist at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, explains that when a tumor forms in the pancreas, it can exert pressure on the bile duct system, leading to a blockage and subsequent jaundice. Importantly, jaundice can manifest even in the early stages when the tumor is still small and located in the “head” of the pancreas.
- Itchy Skin:
Itchy skin, medically termed pruritus, is another potential sign of pancreatic cancer related to the accumulation of bilirubin. If unexplained and persistent itching occurs, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
- Changes in Stool and Urine:
Altered urine and stool color, influenced by bilirubin levels, can be indicative of pancreatic cancer. Darkened urine and lighter stool may be observed. Additionally, pancreatic cancer can interfere with the proper digestion of fats, causing greasier stools.
- Digestive Issues or Unintended Weight Loss:
Pancreatic cancer can disrupt the flow of pancreatic juices, resulting in incomplete digestion, which can lead to symptoms such as bloating, reduced appetite, and unintended weight loss. Nausea and vomiting may also occur if a tumor exerts pressure on the stomach.
- Abdominal or Back Pain:
Pain in the abdominal or back region is another symptom to watch for. This discomfort is more likely to manifest when the cancer develops in the “body” or “tail” of the pancreas. Dr. Lenz advises seeking medical attention if you experience unexplained abdominal pain persisting for more than one to two weeks.
- Blood Clots in Legs or Lungs:
In some cases, blood clots may serve as an initial indication of pancreatic cancer. These blood clots can manifest as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs or pulmonary embolisms (PE) in the lungs. However, it’s essential to note that blood clots are frequently caused by various other health conditions.
- Sudden Onset of Diabetes:
Pancreatic cancer can interfere with insulin production, resulting in the sudden onset of diabetes. Given that diabetes typically develops gradually, experiencing abrupt symptoms necessitates prompt medical evaluation.
Early detection of pancreatic cancer is challenging but crucial for improving outcomes. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they persist for an extended period, consulting with a healthcare provider is imperative. Additionally, individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer or other risk factors should be particularly vigilant and discuss their risk with healthcare professionals.