The pancreas plays two major roles in the body: making juices that help in digestion and making hormones such as glucagon and insulin that help in the regulation of sugar levels. The exocrine pancreas cells make digestive juices, and it’s in these cells where 95% of all pancreatic cancers start. The American Cancer Society reports that pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers and approximately 7% of cancer deaths.
Here are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer:
- Jaundice: The skin and whites of the eyes turning yellow are the indicators of jaundice. The accumulation of bilirubin, a dark yellow-brown substance produced by the liver, is what causes jaundice. Usually, the liver produces biliburin as part of bile. And bile moves through the bile duct into the intestines to help in the breakdown of fats, and it finally exits the body via stool. Cancers that begin in the head of the pancreas are usually close to the bile duct. They press on the duct, resulting in jaundice.
- Dark urine: At times, the first thing to see when you have jaundice is dark urine. As the amount of bilirubin in blood rises, the urine turns to brown.
- Back or belly pain: Pain in the back or abdomen is a common pancreatic cancer sign. Cancers that begin in the tail or body of the pancreas can grow big and start to press on nearby organs where they cause pain. This cancer can also spread to those nerves close to the pancreas and cause back pain.
- Weight loss: People with pancreatic cancer may have no appetite, which may cause them to experience unintended weight loss.
- Nausea and vomiting: The cancer can press on the stomach’s far end and partly block it. This makes it hard for food to pass through. It can result in nausea, vomiting, and intense pain especially after eating.
Pancreatic cancer can spread to other tissues and organs as well. Therefore, the symptoms depend on which location the cancer is growing. If the cancer spreads to the lungs, for example, it may cause a cough or shortness of breath.