Summary of early symptoms of pancreatic cancer

As with any disease, recognizing early symptoms of pancreatic cancer is really important. I’m here to share some important health information with you.

If you take a look around, you might notice that more people are dealing with various cancers than you might think. One particular type of cancer, pancreatic cancer, is quite tricky to detect in its early stages and has a high mortality rate, which is causing concern among many.

Today, let’s focus on the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer and the back pain associated with it.


symptoms of pancreatic cancer


<function of the pancreas>

It secretes digestive enzymes to digest food and secretes insulin and glucagon hormones that regulate blood sugar.


<location of the pancreas>

The pancreas is located deep in the center of the body, behind the stomach and next to the small intestine below. It weighs about 100g and is around 15cm tall. The pancreas has a long, thin shape, like a flat pear or a fish extended horizontally across the abdomen.

The different parts of the pancreas are the head, which is positioned toward the center of the abdomen and is adjacent to the abdominal aorta and inferior vena cava. The body is in the middle section, adjacent to the superior mesenteric artery and superior mesenteric vein. The thin end of the pancreas is called the tail, and it extends to the left side.

The pancreas has two main functions: an exocrine function that helps with digestion and an endocrine function that regulates blood sugar. The exocrine function involves producing enzymes that help break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the food we eat. On the other hand, the endocrine function involves producing hormones like insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar levels in the body.

Because of its location deep in the body, checking the condition of the pancreas with an abdominal ultrasound can be difficult. If you experience any symptoms related to the pancreas, such as stomach or back pain, unexplained weight loss, or changes in your poo, it’s essential to consult with your doctor for proper evaluation and care.


<Pancreatic Cancer Features>

Pancreatic cancer is a mass made up of cancerous cells that develop in the pancreas. There are many types of cancer that can occur in the pancreas, but almost 90% or more are characterized by occurring in the exocrine cells of the pancreatic duct.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma means adenocarcinoma, which refers to cancer that develops in the glandular cells. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may vary slightly depending on where it occurs in the pancreas.


<pancreatic cancer early symptoms>

Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that many people may not know much about, but it’s quite common. Recognizing the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be challenging because it often shows no noticeable signs in the initial stages. Digestive issues like indigestion and nausea, along with body changes such as weight loss and abdominal pain, can occur, making it hard to quickly recognize and address the problem in its early stages. Some of the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and eyes, and possibly itchy skin.
  • Mid-back pain or discomfort: Pain felt around the area where a bra strap sits and may feel better when leaning forward.
  • Loss of appetite: Not feeling like eating.
  • Indigestion: Not responding to medication.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Feeling and being sick.
  • New onset diabetes: Not associated with weight gain.
  • Change in bowel habit: A change in the way you poo.
  • Unexplained weight loss: Weight loss without trying.

If you or a loved one regularly experiences one or more of these symptoms, especially if they’re not usual for you, it’s essential not to ignore them. Visit your GP straight away to get them investigated. Remember, these symptoms can be caused by various conditions, and pancreatic cancer is just one possibility.


<What tests are needed?>

When someone has pancreatic cancer, doctors can use a blood test to detect a substance called CA (19-9). This substance is produced by cancer cells. These substances are known as tumor markers and serve as specific indicators used for diagnosing cancer or monitoring its progress.

In addition to blood tests, doctors may perform an abdominal ultrasound to examine the area closely. If the ultrasound doesn’t provide a clear confirmation, a CT or MRI scan might be necessary to get a more detailed view.


<Pancreatic cancer survival rate?>

Many people wonder about the chances of surviving pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is often called the silent killer because it can be quite aggressive, and the survival rate is not very high.

Pancreatic cancer can progress rapidly, and detecting it early is tough due to how our bodies are structured. This means that if you notice any unusual symptoms, there’s a high possibility that the cancer has already spread, making the chances of survival remarkably low.

Back in 2010, the five-year survival rate was only about 5%. However, as of 2022, there has been progress thanks to advancements in medical technology, and the survival rate has increased to around 13%.

It’s important to note that while this increase is encouraging, pancreatic cancer remains one of the toughest cancers to fight, and the survival rate is still relatively low compared to other major cancers. The good news is that there have been ongoing efforts to improve the situation. Organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) have been tirelessly working to fund research, clinical initiatives, and patient services. Their efforts aim to enhance patient outcomes and overall survival.

Thanks to these efforts, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer reached a new high of 12% in the year 2023, an increase of one percentage point from the previous year. This positive trend is a promising sign that progress is being made in the fight against this challenging disease.

However, there’s still more to be done. PanCAN has set an ambitious goal to increase the five-year survival rate to 20% by 2030. To achieve this, continued funding for research is essential to develop better treatment options and early detection strategies for pancreatic cancer patients.

So, while there is progress and hope, it’s vital to remain vigilant and keep supporting research efforts to improve the outcomes for those affected by pancreatic cancer. By working together, we can make a difference and offer more tomorrows filled with hope for pancreatic cancer patients.


In short

Pancreatic cancer is often not detected early because its symptoms don’t show up until the disease has progressed significantly. This leads to lower survival rates compared to other cancers. Common symptoms of advanced pancreatic cancer include stomach and back pain, jaundice, weight loss, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, and sometimes diabetes.

The location of the tumor in the pancreas affects the symptoms and when they might appear. If the tumor is in the head of the pancreas, jaundice symptoms may occur due to bile duct blockage. On the other hand, if the tumor is in the body or tail of the pancreas, back pain and weight loss are more likely. In such cases, symptoms may take longer to manifest, giving the tumor more time to grow before being detected.

Keep in mind that the symptoms of pancreatic cancer can vary from person to person. Not everyone experiences all of them. If you notice any of these symptoms, especially the ones persisting for a while, it’s essential to consult with your doctor. Taking this step can help ensure timely and accurate medical attention. This will ensure a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Remember, early detection and timely medical attention can make a significant difference in the outcome of pancreatic cancer. So, if you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional.

Stay informed and take care of your health!


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