With a dismal five-year survival rate that’s less than double digits, pancreatic cancer is considered one of the deadliest forms of this disease known. While only an estimated 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease annually, about 43,000 die each year from the cause. Understanding the potential signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer is critical for helping patients obtain a diagnosis as early as possible. Doing so can make a difference in the possible outcome.
Although pancreatic cancer is known to present with few, if any, symptoms at its onset some things may signal its presence. People who are at risk for pancreatic cancer or concerned about the condition should be aware of these potential warning signs:
* Stomach and upper back pain – It is estimated that about seven out of 10 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer initially go to the doctor due to back pain. The pain typically starts in the stomach and then moves to the back.
* Weight loss that is unexplained – Losing a fair amount of weight without any other reasonable explanation. Pancreatic cancer is known to affect the way food is digested, which can prompt unexplained weight loss.
* Chronic indigestion – It’s important to remember that indigestion and heartburn may have many other causes. It is, however, also a common sign of pancreatic cancer.
* Diabetes – People who are newly diagnosed with diabetes may find that cancer is the cause. Tumors can prevent the pancreas from producing insulin. This, in turn, can promote the development of diabetes.
* Difficulty swallowing – This is another digestive-related complain that may have many potential root causes. Even so, unexplained concerns related to swallowing should be checked out by a doctor.
* Bowel changes – This condition can signal a long list of concerns, some minor and others not. If stools are pale, especially odorous or won’t flush down easily, it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.
* Unexplained nausea – Jaundice, nausea and vomiting may also all be signs that pancreatic cancer is present. If these issues are a concern and no other cause is immediately evident, getting checked out is a good idea.
Pancreatic cancer is known for presenting with symptoms that are vague and often found in a host of other conditions. If risk factors are high for this condition, any of the above symptoms may signal the need for a screening. If detected and treated early, the outcomes related to pancreatic cancer may be more positive. The key is seeking out an early diagnosis if risks and symptoms suspicions are high.