Pancreatic cancer is often a very aggressive form of cancer, and one that is often not caught until it is in the advanced stages. This is why it is important that you are aware of the symptoms for pancreatic cancer, so that you can see your physician as early as possible. The earlier a cancer is detected, the easier it will be to treat it.
Understand the Signs and Symptoms for Pancreatic Cancer:
The first thing to understand is that the location on the pancreas on which the cancer is found – the tail, body, or head – will determine what the likely symptoms are. More often than not, however, the cancer is an exocrine tumor, which means it starts within the pancreatic cells in which digestive juices are produced.
Unfortunately, the symptoms for pancreatic cancer are often vague, and therefore many people tend to not seek medical advice until it has progressed significantly. Make sure to see your physician, therefore, if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the back or stomach area
There are some other symptoms to be aware of as well. Often, these occur long before a diagnosis is made. Other symptoms, however, start to appear after diagnosis, or at least after progression. Some people have all these symptoms, some have none at all. This is why they are known as "non specific symptoms", and they include:
- Bowel changes
- Shivering and fever
- Blood clots
It is very rare for people to develop an endocrine pancreatic tumor. The medical terminology for this is neuroendocrine tumor. Around one third of pancreatic tumors are known as functional tumors, which means that they produce hormones. Different tumors produce different hormones, and this makes the symptoms vary as well. As such:
- Insulinomas are responsible for the production of insulin. This tends to lead to drowsiness, dizziness, loss of energy, and generalized weakness.
- Gastrinomas are responsible for the production of gastrin. This leads to peptic ulcers appearing in the duodenum or in the stomach. People who have this type of cancer tend to experience severe pain, as well as tarry, black feces, and diarrhea.
- Somatostatinomas are responsible for the production of somatostatin. This means they are likely to develop diabetes and gallstones. Additionally, they often have diarrhea, as well as steatorrhoea, which is a smelly, fatty, bulky stool.
- VIPomas are responsible for the production of the VIP hormone. Those who experience this type of cancer will usually have very watery diarrhea, high blood pressure, and flushing of the face.
- Glucagonomas are responsible for the production of glucagon. As a result, they develop a specific skin rash (scabbing, ulceration, and redness), diarrhea, mouth ulcers, and anemia.
In around two thirds of pancreatic cancer cases, the tumors are non-functional, which means they do not produce hormones. This is why the symptoms are also so easy to miss. It is very important, therefore, to be aware of your own body and to seek medical advice if there are any changes. Remember that the earlier a cancer is detected, the better the prognosis.