Pancreatic cancer is caused by the development of transformed cellular growth in the tissues of the pancreas. The fourth most common cause of deaths due to cancer across the world, is attributed to pancreatic cancer.
Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of cancer found in the pancreas and 95 percent of the total diagnosed cases of pancreatic cancer are attributed to this type of malignant growth. A small percentage of pancreatic cancer originates in the islets of the pancreas and is categorized as asneuroendocrine tumors.
It is important to note that the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are dependent on the size, location and type of malignant growth. Professional help should be taken as soon as these signs develop in the patients. Some of the common symptoms of pancreatic cancer are discussed below.
Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are not easily detected in the early stages of the disease, which makes it a “silent killer”. It is concerning that the signs and symptoms start revealing themselves at a much later stage, making treatment very difficult and slow. The different symptoms that finally get noticed by the patients and the doctors are based on the location, type of cancerous cells and the stage of the disease.
Some of the common symptoms include back or abdominal pain, jaundice, loss of appetite and an unexplained reduction in weight. Blood clots and ascites are common symptoms in the patients who have reached an advanced stage of pancreatic cancer. Weakness, digestive problems, fatigue and depression are some symptoms of pancreatic cancer that can be noticeable at any stage of the disease.
Most of these signs and symptoms are not solely related to pancreatic cancer and may help in the diagnosis of other disorders and diseases. It is however, important to consult a medical expert to diagnose the correct cause of these symptoms.
The presence of pain in the upper abdomen which often radiates to the back is a common symptom of the carcinoma or malignancy present in the tail or body of the pancreas.
It is important to find the exact location of the pain and refer to a medical expert immediately.
Nausea and Loss of Weight
There can be a sudden loss of appetite in the patients suffering from pancreatic cancer. The condition is called anorexia and it leads to a significant reduction in the body weight. If the body loses more than 10 percent of its weight due to unexplained reasons, then it is known as cachexia, which signifies a significant loss in weight. The loss of appetite is often accompanied with vomiting and nausea.
Jaundice or Yellow Fever
The common symptoms of jaundice are the development of a yellowish tinge in the eyes accompanied by the darkening of the urine. In extreme cases of jaundice, the skin colour changes to a yellowish tone.
The presence of a tumor or malignant growth in the head of the pancreas, obstructs the normal flow of the common bile duct through the pancreas, in over 75 percent of the total cases of pancreatic cancer. Most of these jaundice symptoms develop due to the abnormal functioning of the pancreas caused due to cancerous growth.
Steatorrhea and paling of the coloration of the stool are some other advanced symptoms of jaundice. In several cases of jaundice caused by pancreatic cancer, there can be an itching sensation in the body caused by the salt present in the excessive levels of bile in the pancreas.
Blood Clots in Blood Vessels
The spontaneous formation of blood clots in the portal blood vessels is one of the advanced symptoms of pancreatic cancer. The condition is known as trousseau sign and may give rise to blood clots in other areas such as the deep veins present in the extremities or any other superficial vein or blood vessel in the body. It is important to consult a doctor as soon as these blood clots start developing as a proper diagnosis of the cause is important at an early stage.
Pancreatic cancer patients are often diagnosed with a rise in the levels of blood sugar or diabetes mellitus years or months before the detection of the other symptoms of malignant growth. It is important to understand that the onset of diabetes mellitus in an elderly adult may herald the detection of early signs of pancreatic cancer.
In some patients of pancreatic cancer, clinical depression is diagnosed before the onset of the disease. A formal mechanism of association between the two disorders is yet to be researched.
As mentioned earlier fatigue, weakness and irritability are other symptoms that can develop at any stage of pancreatic cancer.