Pancreatic cancer is the ninth most common cancer death in women and the fourth in terms of both men and women. According to recent research the five year survival rate for those diagnosed early is only 8% and this drops to 3% for those diagnosed at an advanced stage. This is mainly due to the fact that this type of cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose and is usually discovered when it’s advanced to an almost incurable stage.
So what is pancreatic cancer? Pancreatic cancer is a disease where the healthy cells within the pancreas stop working as they should, and begin to grow at an uncontrollable rate. As the cancerous cells begin to build up, they form tumors that can begin spreading to other parts of the body. When pancreatic tumors advance to a large enough size, they begin to impact the function of other organs. This can result in digestive problems as the stomach begins to produce too much acid, as well as issues with the liver and bile production.
Additional Reading: Dr. Wm. D. Kelley: HiStory
According to medical experts there are two types of pancreatic cancers: exocrine tumors and endocrine tumors. Exocrine are the most common and these tumors start by growing in the ducts of the pancreas. As for endocrine, these are also known as “islet cell tumors” and can still function despite the cancer. However, only 1% of pancreatic cancer patients suffer from endocrine tumors.
Due to the fact that pancreatic cancer is so difficult to diagnose, we thought it would be important to provide the most common signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer below. Remember, the key to maintaining a healthy body is not only exercise and nutrition, but making sure you pay attention to what your body is telling you on a day-to-day basis. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to consult with your primary care physician.
One of the telltale signs of pancreatic cancer is jaundice, which is a yellowing of the eyes and skin. According to the American Cancer Society, almost all cases of pancreatic cancer begin with jaundice. Jaundice is a result of bilirubin buildup ( a substance that is made in the liver). Usually, it’s excreted by the liver in bile, however when the bile duct becomes blocked it can build up in the body, usually do to cancers beginning in the head of the pancreas. As the cancer spreads, it usually moves to the liver which results in jaundice.
14. Dark Urine
Another common symptom of pancreatic cancer is dark urine. This is once again a result of bilirubin buildup within the body. As the levels in the blood reach an all-time high, the urine turns brown in color. It’s recommended if you suffer from dark brown urine on a regular basis that you be examined by your primary healthcare physician.
13. Greasy Stool
Not the most appetizing of subjects, but greasy stool is another symptom of pancreatic cancer. This is due to the cancer blocking the bile duct, which means a buildup of other toxins in the body and inability to digest fast.
12. Grey Stool
Besides greasy stool, feces can turn grey as a result of pancreatic cancer as well. The grey color is contributed due to bile and pancreatic enzymes being unable to get to the intestines to help breakdown fat. This results in grey floating stools that are usually very soft in consistency.
11. Itchy Skin
If you notice your skin begins to turn yellow and itchy, it’s time to see a doctor right away. Research has found that these symptoms are a clear indication of pancreatic cancer, and should be treated seriously. This is all a result of once again, bilirubin building up in the skin.
10. Stomach Pain
Another common symptom of pancreatic cancer is abdomen pain. This is due to the fact that when cancers begins to grow larger within the body it can start to press on other organs, the stomach included. This can lead to what feels like a simple stomach ache, however if it remains constant, we suggest seeking out medical attention right away.
9. Back Pain
When cancer starts in the tail of the pancreas, it can spread to the surrounding nerves, which often triggers intense lower back pain. As the cancer grows, this can lead to intense buildup of pressure on the spine, which can trigger other problems as well.
8. Weight loss and lack of appetite
Due to the various ways the pancreas impacts our daily bodily functions, when cancer spreads it can reduce your appetite and even trigger weight loss. If you notice you’re losing weight without cause (like you’re still eating twinkies and steering clear of the gym) you may want to seek out medical attention sooner rather than later.
7. Nausea and vomiting
As pancreatic cancer spreads, it can begin to press on the stomach and in extreme cases, block stomach access. This can make it harder for food to pass from the stomach into the intestines, which results in nausea and vomiting. These symptoms tend to appear after eating in most extreme cases.
6. Gallbladder Complications
If pancreatic cancer begins to block the bile duct in the body, it can lead to a build up of bile in the gallbladder, which begins to make it larger. As the gallbladder expands, it becomes a hard mass underneath the right side of the rib cage, which can be felt easily during a routine physical exam.
5. Enlarged Liver
Pancreatic cancer can also enlarge the liver, as bile and bilirubin back up in the body. Sometimes this is usually caused by the cancer spreading to the liver. Most doctors can feel the enlargement through a simple physical, which is why it is an easier symptom to detect.
4. Blood Clots
Often, one of the first signs of pancreatic cancer is a visible blood clot in the leg. Technically called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the symptoms for such an issue are leg pain, swelling, redness and often warmth in the leg with the clot. In worst case scenarios, the blood clot can break off and travel to the lungs which results in a pulmonary embolism, this can be fatal if not treated swiftly.
3. Fatty Tissue Abnormalities
As pancreatic cancer spreads unchecked, layers of uneven fatty tissue can begin to accumulate underneath the skin. This results from the release of pancreatic enzymes that are used to digest fat. When this process is disrupted, the fat begins to collect in odd formations.
While this is one of the more rare symptoms of pancreatic cancer, a select few people may develop diabetes when suffering from pancreatic cancer. Although this is highly unusual and most of the time its the cancer changing blood sugar levels that imitate diabetes.
Pancreatic cancer can sometimes trigger the body to develop gastrinomas, which are tumors that make gastrin, a hormone that signals the stomach to make more acid. From these gastrinomas the stomach can make too much acid which leads to stomach ulcers and eventually internal bleeding.
Published by Activly.
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