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Recognizing Five Early Indicators of Pancreatic Cancer for Improved Survival Chances

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Pancreatic cancer has been called the “silent killer” because of how easy it is to overlook the symptoms until it’s too late.

Perhaps part of what makes the disease so deadly is that the cancer has already spread to most people who are diagnosed with cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), only 13 percent of cases remain confined to their primary site.

A 2022 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network survey found that 83% of adults are unaware of the signs of the disease. While there is no standard method for screening for pancreatic cancer, experts are increasingly warning that early detection of symptoms can be life-saving.

jaundice

Jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes, is the most common first sign of pancreatic cancer. This is caused by a buildup of bilirubin, a yellowish-brown substance produced by the liver. The liver secretes bile, a fluid that aids digestion and contains bilirubin.

During normal liver function, bile passes through the ducts into the intestines and helps break down fats.

However, when the bile ducts become blocked, bilirubin builds up, which causes yellowing of the skin and eyes.

This is because the pancreas is located close to the common bile duct, so tumors press on the duct, even if they are still small and not detected on a scan.

However, tumors in the lower pancreas do not compress the duct until they have spread throughout the organ, which occurs in the later stages of the disease.

Pancreatic cancer can also metastasize to the liver.

Other signs of jaundice include dark urine, light-colored or greasy stools, and itchy skin.

abdominal pain

Cancers that first form in the body or lower pancreas can grow very quickly, pressing on nearby organs.

This cancer also puts pressure on the nerves surrounding these organs. The stomach is a neighboring organ.

The Pancreas Action Network estimates that about 70 percent of patients experience this pain at the time of diagnosis.

It may come and go at first, and is worse when lying down or eating. As the tumor grows, the pain may become more constant and last longer.

Backache

The pain may also radiate from the stomach to the back.

This pain is more often localized in the middle of the back or below the shoulder bones. It can also reach the shoulders.

Similar to abdominal pain, this is more common when tumors are found in the pancreas or its lower part.

This pain also tends to be worse when lying down or immediately after eating, such as with abdominal pain.

sudden weight loss

Lack of appetite can be caused by a lack of functional pancreatic enzymes that help break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

This can lead to unintentional weight loss and is often a sign that something is medically wrong.

Malignant cells can also deplete nutrients in the body, meaning that the patient needs more calories. If the patient does not receive the required number of calories, he is likely to lose weight.

floating chairs

Unusual changes in stool may be a sign of pancreatic cancer.

And while it occurs after any sudden dietary change, such as adding foods like broccoli, beans, and lentils to the diet, floating stools can be associated with a lack of bile.

The liver does this to filter out waste products such as toxins and excess cholesterol.

Lack of sufficient bile in the stool can be a sign of bile acid malabsorption. When bile is not absorbed properly, it causes a chemical imbalance.

If a tumor blocks the pancreatic duct, a lack of nutrients from the pancreas can lead to malabsorption and diarrhea as undigested food passes through the digestive tract too quickly.

This causes the stool to contain a lot of fat, making it float or appear greasy or pale.

Source: Daily Mail

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