Pancreatic cancer strikes an estimated 53,000 American men and women each year. While those numbers don’t make it the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease, its mortality rate is cause for concern. About 43,000 people die annually across the country from this form of cancer, making it one of the deadliest. Given its high mortality rate – less than 10 percent survival after five years – understanding the signs and symptoms is important for those who are at risk.
In its earliest stages, pancreatic cancer tends to present with no symptoms. That fact is one of the reasons why the disease is so deadly. Even so, recognizing symptoms when they appear can help lead to faster detection and treatment. Some of the more common symptoms people at risk should be mindful of include:
- Jaundice – This is the yellowing of the eyes and skin. It is one of the most common, and often the first, symptom found in people with pancreatic cancer. Jaundice can be traced to many other, often benign conditions, so it is important for people at risk for pancreatic cancer to understand those risks and the significance this symptom may hold.
- Back or abdominal pain – Unexplained pain in the back or abdomen is very common and can have a diversity of sources. Pancreatic cancer is one of them. The pain arises when tumors begin to push on nearby organs or tissue.
- Digestive problems – Unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and other similar concerns may all signal the presence of pancreatic cancer.
- New onset diabetes – When otherwise healthy, normal weight people develop diabetes, the cause may be pancreatic cancer.
Diagnosing and treating pancreatic cancer as quickly as possible is key to improving outcomes. People at risk for this condition are urged to be mindful of the symptoms. Risk factors include family history, certain genetic syndromes, smoking, obesity, chronic pancreatitis and new onset diabetes, among others.