More than 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the coming year. An estimated 43,000 people will die from this cause. With a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, this form of cancer is widely considered one of the deadliest. Lacking a viable early screening test for widespread use, this type of cancer is hard to detect and especially difficult to treat. Those facts make understanding personal risk and the signs to look for critical.
Pancreatic cancer tends to develop unchecked in its earliest phases because it may present with no or very vague symptoms. Understanding what those vague symptoms are, however, can lead to earlier diagnosis and the potential for more successful treatment.
Some of the more common signs of pancreatic cancer include:
- Jaundice – A yellowing of the eyes and the skin can be caused by a pancreatic tumor blocking off a bile duct. This causes bile to build up and may result in changes in skin coloration, darker urine and light-colored stools.
- Abdominal pain – Persistent pain in the abdomen or back may indicate a pancreatic tumor.
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss – If a fair amount of weight is lost for no particular reason, it may be caused by inhibition of digestive enzymes.
- Diabetes – Newly diagnosed type two diabetes may be caused by a pancreatic tumor.
- Blood clots – Pancreatic cancer is associated with the production of deep vein thrombosis, or blood clotting.
While the more common symptoms of pancreatic cancer are also strongly linked to other conditions, knowing what they are can prove critical. When these symptoms combine with personal risk factors, they may signal a need to screen for the presence of pancreatic cancer. Some of the more common risks for pancreatic cancer include obesity, smoking, family history, chronic pancreatitis and diabetes, among others.
People who are concerned about pancreatic cancer are urged to talk with their doctors about personal risks. Should symptoms arise, it is important to seek medical care.