Rarely, pancreatic cancers cause diabetes (high blood sugar) because they destroy the insulin-making cells. Symptoms can include feeling thirsty and hungry, and having to urinate often. More often, cancer can lead to small changes in blood sugar levels that don’t cause symptoms of diabetes but can still be detected with blood tests. Written by.
Read More >>
If you have a family history of cancer or have chronic pancreatitis, you may be concerned about your risk for pancreatic cancer. There are many symptoms of pancreatic cancer that may help you to understand when to see a doctor. However, many of these symptoms are difficult to differentiate from other conditions, so be sure to visit your doctor prior to making any assumptions. Here are some of the primary signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Abdominal pain is common among older adults and may signal a number of conditions. However, when abdominal pain begins to radiate into your back, you may be experiencing pain as a result of pancreatic changes. Typically the pain is located in the upper abdomen. It may remain constant or come and go with time. The pain may be the result of a growing tumor pressing into the nerves in your abdomen.
Appetite and Weight Changes
Pancreatic cancer may also cause changes to appetite and weight. Those who have pancreatic cancer may experience a reduced appetite, resulting in the loss of weight, vitamin deficiencies, or fatigue. They may also experience unexplained or uncontrollable weight loss.
Those with pancreatic cancer may also experience higher levels of fatigue. As a result of the body's attempt to fight off the cancerous cells and compensate for the lower functioning pancreas, those with pancreatic cancer may find themselves becoming fatigued more easily and needing additional sleep.
Jaundice, or the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, is a common symptom in any type of pancreatic dysfunction, including pancreatic cancer. This is because the pancreas plays an essential role in the filtering of bile and red blood cells. When the bile ducts become blocked in the pancreas from cancerous growth, bile and other important functions are no longer able to proceed as normal. The result is the build-up of bilirubin in the skin and whites of the eyes, giving them a yellow tint.
One symptom of pancreatic cancer that is often overlooked is itching skin. The itching is often widespread across the entire body. The skin typically itches due to the build-up of bilirubin and bile in the blood. Those with itching skin should not overlook this as a symptom, especially if accompanied by jaundice or changes to stool or urine colors.
Changes in Stools
Changes in stools may also occur as a result of pancreatic cancer. The stool often becomes light-colored or pale-looking. Similar to jaundice, this is a result of the dysfunction of the bile ducts as a result of cancerous growth. As bile is no longer able to be filtered and processed as normal, the stools turn a lighter color.
Additionally, as cancer in the pancreas continues to grow, you may experience bowel obstruction. This is because cancer may grow or press on the small intestine.
Change in Diabetes
Those with pancreatic cancer may also experience a change in their diabetes. Those with pancreatic cancer may find a new diagnosis of diabetes. They may also find their existing diabetes more difficult to control. This is because of the pancreas' role in the production of insulin. Insulin helps the body regulate blood glucose levels. Those with pancreatic cancer may experience changes in the levels of insulin that their pancreas is able to produce. As a result, new onset of diabetes may occur or existing diabetes may become more difficult to control.
Just like the changes to the color of stool, there may also be changes to urine color. Both of these changes result from the same reason. As the bile ducts become blocked, bile is unable to flow as normal, resulting in different levels of bilirubin in the skin and bloodstream. This may also impact the color of urine.
Those with pancreatic cancer may experience changes in their digestive tract as well. They may experience bloating, early feelings of fullness, or uncomfortable amounts of swelling in the abdomen.
Nausea or Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are also common with pancreatic cancer, especially as the tumor continues to grow. It may occur all the time or only after meals, as the pancreas attempts to process the food. Fatty meals may cause more nausea and vomiting than other types of food.
There are also several rare symptoms that may appear as a result of pancreatic cancer. These tend to be the result of rare types of pancreatic cancers. Here are a few of some of the rarer symptoms of pancreatic cancer:
There are many symptoms of pancreatic cancer. These symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from a number of other abdominal conditions, as many different conditions may cause similar symptoms. If you're concerned about your risk for cancer or are experiencing many of the symptoms listed above, you should contact a doctor to discuss these changes. Those who have a family history of pancreatic cancer or are at a higher risk for pancreatic cancer due to obesity or tobacco use should pay special attention to these symptoms.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author. This content has not been paid for by any advertiser nor does WhipCancer.org recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. WhipCancer.org does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and information contained on this site is intended for informational purposes only. Please seek the advice of your physician or other professional healthcare provider with any questions you may have.
These accumulating cells can form a tumor. When left untreated, the pancreatic cancer cells can spread to nearby organs and blood vessels and to distant parts of the body. Most pancreatic cancer begins in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. This type of cancer is called pancreatic adenocarcinoma or pancreatic exocrine cancer.