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10 warning signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer you shouldn't ignore

Dec 30, 2022 11:55 PM IST

Yellow eyes, itchy skin, persistent stomach ache and weight loss shouldn't be taken lightly as these symptoms may indicate pancreatic cancer.

Pancreas is an organ that is located behind the lower part of the stomach and aids in digestion and also metabolism of sugar. Pancreatic cancer, a rare kind of cancer, normally begins in the lining of the ducts of the pancreas. There are rarely any early signs of pancreatic cancer and when they do appear, the cancer has usually advanced. This is because the pancreas is deep inside the body and early tumors can’t be detected during routine examinations. Smoking, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, inflammation of pancreas, family history of pancreatic cancer, and certain genetic syndromes can increase your chances of pancreatic cancer. There are signs like yellow eyes, itchy skin, persistent stomach ache and weight loss that could indicate pancreatic cancer and that people shouldn't take lightly. (Also read: Low-fat diet may cut pancreatic cancer)

The most common warning signs in patients with pancreatic cancer are pain, jaundice, and weight loss(Shutterstock)

According to cancer.net, the cause of pancreatic cancer is often not known and a person with an averate risk of pancreatic cancer has about a 1% chance of developing the disease. Most pancreatic cancers are considered sporadic are also known as somatic mutations, which means the genetic changes that led to cancer may develop by chance after a person was born. However, there is no risk of passing these genetic changes on to one’s children.

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Dr. Bir Singh Sehrawat, Director & HOD, Gastroenterology, Marengo QRG Hospital Faridabad talk about warning signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer people should know:

"The most common warning signs in patients with pancreatic cancer are pain, jaundice, and weight loss," says Dr Sehrawat. He also elaborates on other warning signs to watch out for.

1. Persistent abdominal pain

Don’t overlook persistent abdominal pain as the pancreas is stationed in your abdomen behind your stomach. Owing to it, the patient experiences a dull pain in the stomach mounting pressure on the organ. Later on it can turn more painful and persistent. It’s considered the most common symptom of pancreatic cancer.

2. Back pain

It is also reported common but it occurs when the cancer radiates to the nerves surrounding the pancreas. You should consult a doctor especially when it's occurring often.

3. Itchy skin

There are many causes of itchy skin and pancreatic cancer is one of them. The itchiness develops when bilirubin is built up in the skin and the skin color turns yellow owing to jaundice.

4. Unexplained weight loss

There are various reasons why weight loss can signal pancreatic cancer. As the cancer advances, it eats up the energy of the body, making you lessen weight. Due to the tumour pressing on your stomach, you may feel full. Also, when your pancreas does not function properly, it may not be able to make enough of the digestive juices needed for your body to process nutrients in the first place.

5. Gastrointestinal issues

If you experience light-coloured, oily, or watery stools or foul-smelling stools when your bathroom habits are okay, then it may be an indication of pancreatic cancer. This kind of issue arises when the bile duct is obstructed, which stops bilirubin from getting to your stools and makes it difficult for your body to digest fats accurately.

6. Yellowing of the skin and eyes

If your skin and eyes turn yellow, you should never ignore it. Conditions such as liver disease and hepatitis may cause Jaundice. It may also go hand-in-hand with pancreatic cancer as a small tumour in the very end of the pancreas can become the cause of jaundice.

7. Dark urine

Most people assume dark urine is the first sign of jaundice. But the darkening of the urine occurs when the levels of bilirubin in the blood shoot up, which alter urine to a brown color.

8. Sudden onset of diabetes

If you develop diabetes abruptly at an older age, don’t take it lightly. Pancreatic cancer may cause sudden onset diabetes or late onset diabetes as it destroys the cells that make insulin, leading to blood sugar levels to jump up.

9. Blood clots

When a blood clot forms in a large vein (Deep vein thrombosis), it may sometimes be the first sign of pancreatic cancer. It usually appears as redness, swelling, and pain in the leg which has the blood clot. A piece of the blood clot may also travel to your lungs, making it hard to breathe.

10. Unexplained fatigue

If you feel extremely tired without any reason, you should consult your doctor. Pancreatic cancer and all cancers can also make you feel immensely exhausted and impact your usual daily activities.

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