Look for the Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer

November is well known for “No-Shave November,” a movement that calls attention to men’s health and cancer awareness. It’s also a month that brings awareness to a very common and deadly cancer that affects all genders and ages: Pancreatic Cancer. 

Pancreatic cancer may not make it to the “top ten” list of most common cancers worldwide, but it’s the third most fatal form of cancer there is. Its large fatality rate is due in part because its earliest warning signs actually show up far into its progression. By the time they are showing up, doctors say that it’s likely it has spread beyond the pancreas. Treatment must start immediately to curb its spread.  This is why we must be extra-vigilant for its symptoms. 

Here are some common symptoms to talk to a doctor about right away when they become frequent. 

Back and abdominal pain

Patients with pancreatic cancer often report a dull ache in their back and abdomens that can come and go. Sometimes it’s worse than others, and the pain can move around the core of your body throughout the day. 

Nausea and vomiting

Unexplained nausea and vomiting is always a cause for concern. If it becomes regular, ask your doctor about cancer screenings. Since it’s a common symptom of several types of cancer, it is good to be proactive. 

Bloating and discomfort after eating

Pancreatic cancer can make you feel full after only a few bites of a meal, and will commonly cause bloating as you digest your food. This can feel very uncomfortable. 

These are less common symptoms of pancreatic cancer, but ones you should talk to your doctor about immediately! 

Jaundice

Frequently seen in newborns, jaundice is a condition that turns your skin and eyes an alarming yellow color. It’s caused by a buildup of bile. The pancreas releases bile into the intestine, and cancer can often block it and cause a build up in your body.

Abnormal bowel movements

Several types of pancreatic cancer can cause abnormal bowel movements, diarrhea, bloody or fatty stool, as well as incredible abdominal discomfort. Don’t just assume you ate something “off” if your bowel movements are unusual. Make sure to talk to a doctor if it continues for more than a couple of days. 

Unexplained weight loss

Weight loss isn’t always a good thing, especially when there’s no particular reason for it. If you are losing weight suddenly, talk to your doctor. If it’s coupled with exhaustion and weakness, make sure to ask about being screened for cancer. 

Pancreatic cancer may have a high mortality rate, but experts are always researching for new ways to detect it even earlier. Due to its lack of early symptoms, it may go undetected until it’s well-established in the body. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to beat. By staying vigilant about its symptoms, you will be able to catch it just in time for effective treatment.