Experts Say That These 9 Symptoms Could Be Early Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer among women and men. Since this cancer is hard to detect and treat, the survival rate of the disease is very low, hovering between 7 – 25%.

Your pancreas is part of the digestive system and is buried within the abdominal cavity. It sits behind the stomach and in the upper part of your abdomen. Because of its location, it can be hard to feel tumors before they’ve grown large enough to interfere with normal bodily functions. Additionally, there is no screening test for this cancer type.

Looking for clues to pancreatic cancer is vital to early detection and treatment. Though some of the signs and symptoms of this cancer can resemble other health conditions like diabetes, cirrhosis, or liver disease, it’s important to have things checked out if you notice any abnormalities.

Scroll through the list below for some of its warning signs.

  1. Sudden Onset Diabetes

    Pancreatic cancer can interfere with insulin production and blood sugar levels, thus causing a new onset of diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Research. This is commonly seen in patients over age 50. Also if you’re extra thirsty or hungry, it could be a sign of diabetes.

  2. Jaundice

    A cancerous tumor may block the bile duct, causing a backup of bile (and bilirubin) in the system. Jaundice – yellowing of the eyes and skin – is caused by that backed up bile leaking into the bloodstream, according to Pancreatic Cancer UK.

  3. Loss of Weight and Appetite

    This symptom is common to most cancers and can run dangerously close to becoming anorexia, especially in advanced stages of the disease. The American Cancer Society explains that tumors on the pancreas may inhibit digestive processes, but cancerous cells may also be stealing nutrients from the rest of the body, causing a decrease in weight or appetite.

  4. Pale, Floating Stools

    As with jaundice, a blockage in the bile duct caused by a tumor will prevent bilirubin from reaching the digestive tract, according to experts at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Bilirubin is a yellowish-brown substance contained in bile and it’s what gives stools their color. When it’s absent from the digestive tract, stools may be gray or whitish, and float because of undigested fats.

  5. Itchy Skin

    Itchiness is connected to a blocked bile duct as well. When bile salts and bile buildup in your body, they can gather in the skin, causing itching sensations. This typically happens in conjunction with jaundice, explains the Pancreatic Action Network. 

  6. Abdominal Pain

    The majority of pancreatic cancer patients experience some form of abdominal pain, typically felt in the upper abdomen. It may disappear when you lean forward, or worsen after you eat or lie down. Abdominal pain has also been linked to metastatic pancreatic cancer, according to BMJ Case Reports. (Metastatic means cancer that has spread.)

  7. Blood Clot

    The American Cancer Society states that for some people, blood clots may be the earliest sign of pancreatic cancer. If you notice painful swelling, redness, or warmth in the leg, it could be due to a blood clot.

  8. Back Pain

    Back pain may or may not accompany abdominal pain with this cancer. Though back pain is a general symptom, you may notice pain the middle of the upper back as a result of the cancer pressing on the nerves or organs, explain researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

  9. Discolored Urine

    Dark urine is the result of bilirubin being prevalent in the bloodstream. Look out for urine that is brown in color.

Those who have an increased risk for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Cigarette smokers
  • Adults over age 50
  • Genetic predisposition – individuals with BRCA gene mutations
  • Obese individuals
  • Diabetics

The list above is by no means exhaustive and each person will present differently. As always, visit your physician for advice if something seems off with your body.

Do you know anyone who has had pancreatic cancer? Are you already familiar with the signs of this disease?