The pancreas is a gland, which is about six inches long. The wider end is the head and the middle segment of the pancreas is known as the body and the narrow end is known as tail. This gland lies in front of the spinal column and at the back of the stomach. As the pancreas is positioned behind organs such as spleen, liver, small intestine, stomach and gall bladder, it cannot be felt during a physical examination.
The symptoms and signs of pancreatic cancer are usually not seen until the cancer is in the advanced phase. Thus, early detection of this disease is quite difficult. Even when the symptoms do appear, they are non-specific and vague like weight loss and stomach pain. Moreover, the symptoms vary depending on the cancer location within the pancreas.
Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Yellowing of the Eyes and Skin
This condition known as jaundice is a painless ailment that is noticed due to the yellowing of the eyes and skin. This is commonly noticed in people with pancreatic cancer and occurs due to a substance known as bilirubin, which is present in increased levels in the blood. This condition occurs, when the bile duct of the liver is partially or completely blocked by the tumor, which slows down the flow of bile.
Unintended Weight Loss
Losing weight is welcomed by all of us. However, when there is loss of weight without any extra effort, then it indicates that something is wrong.
Abdominal pain along with weight loss is one of the first signs that a person usually notices in pancreatic cancer. (Weight loss is also seen in other benign conditions and several kinds of cancer)
This is also one of the common symptoms seen in pancreatic cancer. It usually occurs in the upper part of the abdomen and the pain might even extend to the back. It might worsen further three to four hours after eating or while lying down.
This is another vague symptom that is commonly seen in pancreatic cancer. This kind of non-specific symptom usually results in a delay, while diagnosing the problem.
This vague symptom is usually experienced by people with this type of cancer. However, itchy skin is less commonly seen, but when it is coupled with other symptoms such as jaundice and abdominal pain, it can be quite significant to make timely and more accurate diagnosis. However, many times it is misdiagnosed as a dermatological problem, when someone with an undiagnosed condition experiences itchy skin.
Loss of Appetite
This symptom is commonly seen in hundreds of conditions and diseases including pancreatic cancer. This might indicate something severe or sometimes it might just be related to a stomach virus. Medical tests are vital, in case of such vague symptoms to diagnose the problem accurately.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms then consult your doctor immediately, as medical evaluation is imperative. Although, this type of cancer is considered to be rare, people with certain genetic syndrome and with a family history of cancer related to pancreas are at a higher risk of developing this cancer.
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