Pancreatic cancer symptoms are not easily detected, and this is why it is often touted as a 'silent killer'. As it goes with every cancer type, early detection of symptoms always helps in designing a proper line of treatment and increasing survival rates.
However, the signs of pancreatic cancer are often similar to those of other less-severe diseases, such as gastrointestinal problems. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor for a conclusive diagnosis.
Pancreatic cancer mainly affects people over the age of 65, and though it can affect both genders, it is slightly more common among males.
Pancreatic cancer symptoms may differ from person to person depending upon the cancer stage, the person's overall health condition, the tumor's size, the location of the cancer, and the extent of the cancer's spread.
Abdominal pain is one of the most common signs of pancreatic cancer and is usually evident when the cancer has already spread to the surrounding structures. However, abdominal pain is often caused by many less serious conditions, too. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor to learn the exact cause.
Abdominal pain, as a pancreatic cancer symptom, is often accompanied by appetite loss, nausea, weight loss, and jaundice.
Jaundice is also one of the most important pancreatic cancer symptoms, usually when the cancerous cells are affecting the head of the pancreas or the bile ducts. When cancer obstructs the bile duct and results in high levels of bilirubin in the blood, it can cause jaundice.
One of the most important symptoms of pancreatic cancer is weight loss without any reason. When an individual loses weight without any effort and with no proper explanation, along with experiencing other pancreatic cancer symptoms, it could indicate pancreatic cancer.
Loss of appetite can be a direct result of cancerous cells affecting the pancreas and the digestive system, and it can be one of the most important symptoms of cancer in the pancreas. As the cancer can hamper the pancreas, an organ playing an essential role in the digestive process, it can cause a reduction in the urge to eat.
Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms of pancreatic cancer, but they are not very common. Pancreatic tumors can exert pressure on parts of the intestine and bile ducts and lead to nausea and vomiting.
Fatigue is also one of the pancreatic cancer symptoms, because it leads to a decrease in the number of red blood cells. Also, as the cancer progresses, it can hamper the pancreas' ability to produce enzymes and hormones that help in the digestive process. This, again, can result in weakness and fatigue.
Pancreatic cancer can result in hampered digestive functions and, in turn, cause diarrhea. Diarrhea is considered one of the indirect pancreatic cancer symptoms, and it could be caused by bile duct obstruction, irritation and inflammation of the pancreas, or side effects of the treatment.
Blood clotting is a complication associated with pancreatic cancer and not a direct pancreatic cancer symptom
Back pain, one of the most important signs of pancreatic cancer, is prevalent in the later stages of the disease. As the tumor grows and presses on the nearby tissues and nerves of the spine, patients may start experiencing back pain.
New-onset diabetes is also considered one of the signs of pancreatic cancer. This type of diabetes, which is linked to pancreatic cancer, is referred to as secondary diabetes. Pancreatic tumors, when developed in the exocrine cells, can pressurize the insulin-producing islet cells, leading to diabetes.
Different types of pancreatic cancer may cause different signs and symptoms. The following are the signs of different types of pancreatic cancer:
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma symptoms include jaundice, dull abdominal pain, appetite loss, digestive issues, changes in stool color, and weight loss without any explanation.
The symptoms of acinar cell carcinoma include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, jaundice, digestive issues, new-onset diabetes, loss of the urge to eat, and jaundice.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a rare pancreatic cancer that has symptoms in the form of stools becoming clay-colored or pale in color, dull abdominal pain in the upper or middle portion of the abdomen, digestive issues, weight loss without any reason or effort, jaundice, and fatigue.
Symtoms of adenosquamous carcinoma include localized pain depending upon the tumor's location and size, jaundice, significant weight loss without any reason, respiratory problems, vaginal bleeding, skin changes, and pelvic pain.
Symptoms of Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasm (IPMN) include diabetes, changes in bowel movements, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and a feeling of abdominal fullness.
The symptoms of mucinous cystic neoplasm (MCN) include discomfort in the abdomen, nausea, changes in the bowel movement, the presence of a palpable abdominal mass, persistent abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, and pancreatitis in rare forms.
To date, it has not been possible to know what causes pancreatic cancer; however, certain factors that can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer have been identified:
Increasing age is considered one of the main causes of pancreatic cancer. Cancer of the pancreas mainly affects people over the age of 65.
Smoking is also one of the possible causes of pancreatic cancer, and the chances of developing the cancer increase with the intensity and duration of smoking.
The relationship between diabetes and pancreatic cancer may not be direct, but it is quite complex. Diabetes is recognized as both a symptom and a possible reason for pancreatic cancer.
Again, chronic pancreatitis may not be a direct reason for pancreatic cancer, but it can increase its risk.
A family history of pancreatic cancer is also identified as one of the potential causes of pancreatic cancer. Individuals with close family members who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are also considered high risk individuals for pancreatic cancer.
There are specific genetic syndromes, such as hereditary pancreatitis, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and Lynch syndrome, that can increase the risk of getting cancer.
Being overweight can lead to various health issues, which can pose a risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer.
Consuming unhealthy food items, such as junk food and unhealthy fats and carbs, can also contribute to increasing the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Exposure to specific chemicals, such as pesticides, tobacco, and environmental toxins, can lead to an increased risk of getting cancer.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or possess any of the high-risk factors that can increase your chances of getting pancreatic carcinoma, it is advisable to see an oncologist at the earliest. Early detection of the cancer can always help improve the prognosis, so it is recommended not to delay the visit to the doctor.
Pancreatic cancer causes and symptoms have equal roles to play when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of the cancer. Also, experts place emphasis on visiting a doctor as soon as any of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer appear in the body for the effective management of the condition.