With a five-year mortality rate of an estimated 94 percent and a one year rate of a whopping 74 percent, pancreatic cancer is an undeniable killer. This disease often goes undetected until its more advanced stages, leaving those diagnosed facing rather grim outlooks.

While pancreatic cancer doesn’t have sophisticated early detection tools that some other forms of cancer might, there are some signs and risk factors people should be mindful of. Knowing them can, in some case, lead to earlier detection and the potential for better survivability rates.

Symptoms to Know

While the early stages of pancreatic cancer don’t always present with obvious symptoms, there are some signs to watch for that may indicate the disease’s presence. Keep in mind, these symptoms often are found in a host of other diseases, so ultimate detection can be troublesome. With that said, here are some of the symptoms that may indicate pancreatic cancer formation:

  • Abdominal and/or back pain that occurs as the pancreas swells.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Discoloration of stool. This may indicate the cancer has reached the liver.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting, nausea and other gastrointestinal complaints.
  • Dark colored urine.
  • Itchy skin.

Risk Factors

There are also a number of risk factors to be mindful of. They include:

  • Smoking – Some research indicates smokers are twice as likely to form this disease.
  • Obesity – This status puts more pressure on the body while increasing the chance of pancreatic cancer development by as much as 20 percent.
  • Age – Most people diagnosed with the disease are age 45 or older.
  • Family history – This can play a key role, but no specific gene has been connected to the disease as of yet.
  • Gender – Men are more likely to develop the disease than women.

Pancreatic cancer can be very difficult to detect, especially in its early stages. Understanding the risks and symptoms, however, can better position people to consider this possibility earlier should health issues arise.