Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer are commonly ignored and undiagnosed for too long. This is unfortunate, as pancreatic cancer is a highly treatable disease. The majority of people diagnosed with this condition die from it within five years, and the remaining ones live for many more years. If caught in time, pancreatic cancer can be cured with surgery and chemotherapy, but if left untreated, it can result in death. Fortunately, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are very easy to spot.
Pancreatic cancer is caused by a tumor or cancerous growth in the pancreas. The pancreas produces insulin, which is the cell that allows the cells of the body to absorb glucose from foods. If the pancreas malfunctions or loses its ability to produce enough insulin, the glucose levels in the blood will rise dangerously. As the blood sugar rises, ketones (fatty substances) are produced and this is what causes the unpleasant symptoms of pancreatic cancer. The body’s attempt to burn up these ketones is inefficient and often results in a build-up of fat around the stomach, resulting in weight gain.
In some people, the symptoms of pancreas cancer begin to appear even before weight loss occurs. This is called pancreatic neuropathy and is characterized by numbness, paresthesia (pins and needles sensations), weakness and leg pain. These symptoms may not occur at an advanced stage of cancer, but they do suggest that the cancer has spread to the pancreas or is growing there. Numbness and leg pain are common early stage symptoms of pancreatic cancer and can also be caused by inflammation of the liver or kidneys.
Other symptoms of this disease include severe abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath and unexplained weight loss. Abdominal swelling is another symptom that may indicate an advanced stage of cancer. As the cancer progresses, symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include bone pain or fractures. Digestive symptoms, such as vomiting, usually begin after approximately one week of cancer. A severe weight loss with or without exercise, either slow or quick, usually accompanies the loss of appetite.
Anemia, gallstones and chronic pancreatitis are symptoms that occur with this disease. Gallbladder symptoms usually occur between one to three weeks after the cancer has been detected. Cholesterol levels in the blood usually increase during the first week of cancer and decrease thereafter. Some patients also experience pain in their upper abdomen.
Because symptoms of early-stage pancreatic cancer are so similar to those of diabetes, many people with a family history of diabetes are given false alarms by their doctors. Treatment for symptoms of early-stage pancreatic cancer involves removing the pancreas or inserting a hollow tube into the abdominal cavity to remove the pancreas. This procedure is called a Gastric Bypass and is frequently performed after malignant cells have spread to other areas of the body. Patients who have undergone this procedure usually have excellent long-term results. However, many people suffering from symptoms of early-stage pancreatic cancer choose not to have this procedure due to the highly invasive nature of the procedure.
The symptoms of this disease can be very similar to symptoms of diabetes. In fact, when both diseases are under control, they actually show very few symptoms. Some of the symptoms of pancreas cancer may include weight loss, jaundice and dark urine. Jaundice is a yellowing of the urine that may be blood tinged. Blood in the urine may be discolored from iron.
Symptoms of pancreas cancer that may appear after one year of diagnosis are frequent thirst, frequent urination, anorexia, fatigue, anemia, poor appetite, nausea, constipation, anorexia and nausea. Although these symptoms may point to another condition, they should be checked by a doctor as some of them may be signs of something more serious. These symptoms of pancreatic cancer may be present if the tumor is in the left or right lower portion of the abdomen. Pancreatic cancer can be detected through a series of tests including the abdominal ultrasound and/or computerized tomography scan. A CT scan may be used to get more detailed images of the affected area. If any of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are present, the doctor will conduct a biopsy to determine if the tumor is malignant or benign.