Five signs of Pancreatic Cancer you shouldn’t ignore

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By Nini Iyizoba

Usually, people never really talk about the pancreas. It takes a back seat compared to its other counterparts such as the liver, stomach and even the gallbladder. Perhaps, this has to do with the location of the pancreas, being tucked away so deep in the abdomen, it is almost forgotten.

But don’t be deceived by the location, this tiny organ is very essential to the body and is necessary for proper digestion of food, and blood sugar regulation. Usually, if there is a problem with the pancreas, it affects the whole body.

Pancreatic Cancer is more commonly seen in people over the age of 45, though there have been a few cases of pancreatic cancer cases with people in their 20s and 30s. It is also slightly more common in men. Pancreatic Cancer, though not as common as other cancers, is very deadly; it has one of the highest death rates of any cancer.


Almost 95% of people that are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die within five years from the time of diagnosis. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no screening test for it. In addition, because the pancreas is so hard to detect, tumors can’t be easily felt. Hence, diagnosis is often missed in the early, treatable stages.

Pancreatic cancer could present with many different symptoms, sometimes vague or sometimes even asymptomatic for a while. However, below are five signs and symptoms that should never be ignored.

Sometimes, that unexplained weight loss; or chronic back pain lasting six months may just be something more. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and, to take them seriously and visit your doctor urgently if experiencing any of these symptoms:

Yellowing of the skin and Sclera (white part of the eye). The head of the pancreas is located close to the bile duct which carries bile from the gall bladder and liver.

Bilirubin, which is also a waste product of the red blood cells, is also carried out in the bile. Most pancreatic tumors would cause blockage of the bile duct and cause excessive bilirubin build up which causes yellowing of the skin and eyes. Never ignore this symptom because it always means that something is wrong somewhere in the body.

Prolonged Abdominal or Back Pain. Abdominal pain that starts in middle and radiates to the back is one of the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer. As a pancreatic tumor grows, it puts pressure on the internal organs as well as the spine. This causes a dull, constant pain in the back and sometimes the abdomen as well. If you are experiencing such prolonged pain, it won’t hurt to have it checked out.

 Unexplained Weight Loss. Unintended, unexplained, rapid weight loss is usually a sign that something may be wrong. Most people with pancreatic cancer would usually experience this. A doctor’s visit to find out the underlying problem and obtain necessary treatment is advised.

Bowel and Appetite Changes: A tumor in the pancreas means that the pancreas isn’t working properly. Hence, food is not being digested and absorbed properly. This often causes frequent diarrhea and pale, fatty stools. In addition, one may experience constant bloating or feeling of fullness and nausea even without eating.
Itchy skin: Itchy skin that is not attributed to any insect bites or allergic reaction may also be a symptom of pancreatic cancer. Bilirubin build up in the body tends to cause severe itching.

With pancreatic cancer, the symptoms are usually vague and largely unrecognized, so, many people are largely likely to attribute their symptoms to something else.

Pancreatic cancer is not routinely found as there is no screening test for it. By the time it is detected, it has spread to other organs. This is why it is important that we all pay attention to the signs our body systems give off, because sometimes it may be something crucial. Though these are the most common signs, there are other signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer besides the above mentioned.

The general rule of thumb is, if you are feeling off or unwell, and experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s better to have it checked out and be sure it is nothing serious, than to ignore and it turns out to be something deadly. A word is enough for the wise.

Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment

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