The pancreas is a pear-shaped gland behind the stomach and the liver. Cancer in this gland is rare but notably deadly. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are only seen during the advanced stage of the disease. Moreover, these symptoms are vague and can be easily overlooked or mistook as another ailment. Unknown to some people, the cancer cells have already spread in their system. This is what makes pancreatic cancer one of the most fatal cancers.
There are some few cases where early signs of pancreatic cancer have been observed. Studies revealed that only 4% of the subjects composed of pancreatic cancer patients observed sudden disgust in food they used to like months before actual diagnosis. Only a percentage suffered pancreatitis and about 5% experienced loss of appetite. Advanced cancer on this gland is characterized by jaundice or the yellowing of the eyes and the skin. The discoloration is caused by excessive bilirubin in the blood which occurs when a tumor blocks the bile ducts. With the blockage of the ducts, there will also be changes in bowel habits. In addition, stools may lose their normal brown color and turn gray. Urine is also darker. Presence of fat in the stools, or steatorrhea, can also be observed. These fatty stools have strong foul odor and tend to float more.
Apart from jaundice, another symptom of pancreatic cancer concerning the skin is itch. Itchy skin is most often attributed to dermatological problems; however, itch coupled with jaundice may already entail severe illness. If bilirubin increases, insulin in the blood may decrease causing diabetes. Pancreas secretes insulin and though diabetes can be linked to many other disorders, acquiring onset diabetes is suspicious.
Sudden weight loss can also signify pancreatic cancer. Many would appreciate losing weight, but this can actually lead to more severe illnesses. Together with weight loss, abdominal pains are one of the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer. The pains may occur three hours after eating and even when simply lying down. These pains will be more extensive as the tumor grows bigger. In addition, the abdomen may also swell or bloat.
If the disease is left disregarded, other symptoms will also surface. Vomiting, loss of appetite and malaise are signs common to numerous ailments. But the more common symptoms are, the more they should be taken seriously. It is still best to be sure. For rare pancreatic cancer involving islet cell tumors, other indications included are heavy sweating, facial flushing, reflux and excessive thirst. Islet cell tumors invade the pancreatic cells that are directly producing insulin. This will trigger overproduction of insulin and other hormones and may induce dizziness, chills and recurrent diarrhea.
If you have any of these symptoms, more so if you have more than one of these symptoms, then you must consult a doctor. Aside from those experiencing the indications, people with past records of other cancer types and histories of cancer in their families should also undergo tests. Diagnostic procedures usually involve a series of X-rays, such angiogram, CT scans and ERCP; and ultrasounds like Tran abdominal and the newest Endoscopic ultrasound.