14 Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms You’ll Probably Ignore

If you have indigestion and an upset stomach, and maybe you’re not eating and feeling a little nauseous, you might think you have a stomach problem. And while this is by far the most likely cause, always be aware that they are also symptoms of something far worse – the UK’s fifth biggest cancer killer, pancreatic cancer.

The symptoms of the disease, which is diagnosed in around 10,500 people in the UK every year, can often be confused with other, much more benign conditions, which is why many people don’t seek medical help until the cancer is in their advanced stages. and much more difficult to treat.

As a result, pancreatic cancer is the deadliest common cancer – more than half of people with the disease die within three months of diagnosis, says Pancreatic Cancer UK (PCUK, pancreaticcancer.org.uk).

PCUK Specialist Nurse Jeni Jones says: “The vast majority of cases are diagnosed when the cancer is already in an advanced stage, because the symptoms often overlap with other conditions such as indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. If you have a persistent symptom, you should speak to a GP – it could mean you’ve been diagnosed early.”

Here are some of the symptoms that might be easy to dismiss as something less serious…

1. Indigestion

Indigestion and/or heartburn can be a common symptom of pancreatic cancer – but one that most people wouldn’t necessarily think is linked to a serious illness.

“Most of the time, people can just take over-the-counter medicine for persistent indigestion — it’s not something that will automatically send you running to the GP,” says Jones. “But there are times when it can line up with other symptoms like stomach or back pain and various petty things going on that could suggest pancreatic cancer.”

2. Stomach or back pain

This can be anything from a dull ache to an ache that radiates from your belly to your back, explains Jones. “It might be around your bra line if you’re a woman,” she says. “It’s not pain in the lower back and it’s usually between the shoulder blades. It can get worse after eating something and doesn’t tend to go away easily.

She says that combined stomach and back pain is a fairly common symptom, but some people may only have one or the other.

3. Unexplained weight loss

Weight loss associated with pancreatic cancer may be seen initially when people are not really trying to lose weight and are eating relatively normally. “They may notice that their clothes are becoming baggy,” says Jones.

4. Loss of appetite

Of course, losing weight is sometimes related to loss of appetite, which is another easily overlooked pancreatic cancer symptom, at least initially. “It can range from people thinking they’re not really hungry, to having no appetite and not being able to face food, or feeling full after eating very little,” says Jones, who explains that these changes in appetite can be because the tumor is pressing on the stomach, or just decreasing the ability to eat.

5. Jaundice

Jaundice is a less easy-to-ignore symptom of pancreatic cancer, but it tends to only occur in people whose tumor is located in the head of the pancreas, explains Jones. “Not everyone with pancreatic cancer will have jaundice, although it is very prevalent,” she says. “It’s a red flag symptom – you can tell when the whites of your eyes turn a little yellow, before your skin starts getting that yellow hue.”

6. Itching

Your skin can be very itchy before jaundice develops, because bile salts build up under the skin first. “It’s an insane itch,” emphasizes Jones. “I’m not talking about a little itch, that would make you itch to a crazy degree.”

7. Changes in bowel habits

“This is really, really important,” Jones points out, “because there are many, many causes of diarrhea, but this is what we call steatorrhea – when there is fat present in the stool, which makes it yellow, which also happens in jaundice. That greasy, yellowish poop that won’t come out is a sure sign that there’s something wrong with the digestive system.

“If the patient does not describe the specifics of their diarrhea, they may lose time for the diagnosis, and time is of the essence.”

8. Newly diagnosed diabetes

Jones cautions that a very small amount of people with newly diagnosed diabetes may have pancreatic cancer, because the cancer can prevent the pancreas from making enough insulin, which can lead to diabetes. She explains, “If you have some of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and are suddenly diagnosed with diabetes, then this should be a red flag for your doctor to think about whether you need a scan to check your pancreas.”

9. Nausea

Feeling nauseous or nauseous can be another symptom of pancreatic cancer, though she emphasizes, “Sometimes people may throw up, but that’s not as common as being nauseous.”

10. Blood clots

Jones says that blood clots are an uncommon symptom of pancreatic cancer and that you might see them in people who, for example, are younger and non-smokers and therefore not normally at risk for clots.

“They might have shortness of breath or a swollen leg and get tested and found to have pancreatic cancer,” she says. “It’s exceptional, but clots are a symptom and could be leading to the fact that there is an underlying problem.”

11. Fatigue

Tiredness can, of course, be caused by a number of things, but if you also have other symptoms, it could be related to pancreatic cancer, cautions Jones. “If you rest and can’t recharge your batteries, along with some of the other symptoms like ongoing pain or steatorrhea that physically drains a person, it could be another symptom of pancreatic cancer.”

12. Fever, tremors and malaise

Such symptoms are uncommon pancreatic cancer symptoms, but they are not unheard of and could be linked to the cancer itself or possibly an infection linked to jaundice, which Jones says will need immediate medical attention.

13. Difficulty swallowing food

“Cancer can make a person feel full, so although they think the problem is related to swallowing, it’s often the fact that they just can’t fit in food,” says Jones, who explains that pancreatic cancer really doesn’t. causes problems with the esophagus, it may just make swallowing feel abnormal.

14. Depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety with no obvious cause are common symptoms of pancreatic cancer, says Jones. “By itself, it’s probably not something that would make you say you probably have pancreatic cancer,” she says, “but depressed mood can go hand in hand with pain and fatigue. Again, it’s about considering these things as a whole, not in isolation.”

14 Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms You’ll Probably Ignore

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