How to Recognize Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

November 12, 2012

How to Recognize Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer is one of the rarer forms of cancer and the chances of developing it as part of the general public is very low. However there are certain groups who have a higher risk, some people with genetic differences and those with a family history of pancreatic cancer may find that extra screenings are recommended.

The pancreas is shaped like an elongated pear and is about 6 inches long and sits between the stomach and the spine. External physical examination of the pancreas is not possible because it is surrounded by the spleen, stomach, gall bladder, small intestine and liver. The pancreas produces hormones such as glucagons and insulin which helps the body to maintain stable sugar levels and it also generates enzymes which breaks down our food, in particular the carbohydrates and proteins.

As is common with most cancers by the time pancreatic cancer symptoms are seen the condition will be advanced. During the early stages of the condition no pancreatic cancer symptoms will be seen. The symptoms seen when they do come can be very vague and dependent on the area of the pancreas affected. This adds to the difficulty of making the diagnosis. General early symptoms could be stomach pain or weight loss.

As things progress the pancreatic cancer symptoms will become more definite and easier to note. Some people may have some or all of the following:

The patient may look like they have jaundice, they will not have pain but the skin and eyes will have turned yellow. This happens because the tumor has blocked or slowed down the flow of bile from the liver which then causes the bilirubin level in the blood to increase.

Weight loss is seen and it is common for this to be one of the early pancreatic cancer symptoms. Weight loss is a common symptom for many cancers or benign tumors.

Stomach pain is another early indicator of something untoward. The pain sometimes gets worse after a meal or when the patient is lying down. It’s common for the pain to be near the top end of the stomach and on occasion it can manifest itself to the patient’s back.

Sickness and vomiting is very common in other conditions too but this is another indistinct pancreatic cancer symptom. This symptom alone would make it very difficult to diagnose cancer, however when taken with other symptoms being displayed may give the physician help. Because this is non specific and vague it can delay the diagnosis and medical tests are required to confirm the doctor’s suspicions.

Unexpectedly developing diabetes can also be an indication of pancreatic cancer. The tumor can affect the production of insulin in the body and this causes diabetes. However many people everyday develop diabetes and this does not mean that they have a relationship with pancreatic cancer.

Urine and feces can change color. The feces lose their brown color and take on a grayish pale color and the urine becomes very strong and dark. This is a normal outcome of the bile duct having a blockage and can also lead to the feces having a different smell.

Eating less and losing your appetite is not only a pancreatic cancer symptom, it’s a symptom of many conditions. However when considered as part of the ’big picture’ it can assist the doctor in his diagnosis.

Itchy skin is an uncommon pancreatic cancer symptom but again, when considered alongside other symptoms aids the medical staff.

Medical professionals are aware that pancreatic cancer symptoms are vague and non specific so they look for different symptoms. Having any one of the symptoms above would not necessarily indicate a serious condition. However a medical professional may take a different view if 3 or 4 of these symptoms appeared at the same time.

Category: Articles