What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Because the pancreas lies deep in the abdomen, a doctor performing an examination on a patient would not be able to feel a pancreatic tumor. Pancreatic cancer has few early warning signs, and as a result, pancreatic cancer rarely is discovered early. Many times the diagnosis is not made until the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. When early symptoms do occur, they are often vague and nonspecific and can be confused with symptoms caused by medical conditions other than pancreatic cancer.
Possible early symptoms that should be evaluated by your physician are:
* The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are easily explained by the location of the pancreas in relation to other organs in the body. A tumor located in the head of pancreas may cause jaundice to occur. The signs of jaundice are yellow skin and eyes, dark urine, and light clay-colored stool. Jaundice occurs when a substance called bilirubin builds up in the blood. This build-up causes a person to become noticeably yellow, or jaundiced and itchy.
* As pancreatic cancer grows and spreads, pain can develop in the upper abdomen and may also spread to the back. The pain may become worse after eating or lying down. Advanced cancers or cancers in the body of the pancreas are most likely to cause pain.
* Indigestion, lack of appetite, nausea, and weight loss can occur when a pancreatic tumor presses against the stomach and small intestine. These symptoms may be due to the ability of pancreatic cancers to produce certain proteins that dramatically change the body’s normal physiology.
* Islet-cell cancer, which is the uncommon form of pancreatic cancer, can cause the pancreas to make too much insulin, which results in low blood sugar levels. When this happens, the individual may feel weak or dizzy. Chills, muscle spasms, and diarrhea are frequent symptoms of islet-cell cancers as well. The symptoms that develop depend on the specific hormones that are being overproduced.
* Other symptoms that can occur with pancreatic cancer result from the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body, a process called metastases. Under these circumstances, the symptoms will depend on which organs have been affected by the cancer.