Explanation for the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer

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Pain in the abdomen and upper back

Approximately 70 per cent of patients with pancreatic cancer go to the doctor initially due to pain.  This pain is often described as beginning in the stomach area and radiating around to the upper back (just above where a woman’s bra strap would be).

This pain is worse when lying down than sitting up.

Generally the reason for the pain is because of the tumour pressing against your abdomen and spine.

Jaundice

Half of patients will have yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, jaundice, when they first go to the doctors.  This is related to the tumour blocking the bile duct which leads to a build-up of bile in the liver.

Jaundice may be more obvious in the whites of the eyes and bad jaundice can cause itching of the skin.

Depression

Many of our patients or relatives have said that they have experienced mood changes before being diagnosed.

Mild to severe depression can often present itself in the early stages of pancreatic cancer.  This is why if someone who has never suffered from a severe bout of depression before should express their concerns to their GP.  It can often highlight a medical problem in the very early stages.

Bowel changes

A tumour in the pancreas can cause bowel disturbances which means you do not absorb your food properly.  This will result in regular, large bowel movements of pale and smelly stool.   This can also cause weight loss.

Diabetes

Diabetes is due to a deficiency in insulin, which is produced by the pancreas.  A tumour can stop the pancreas producing insulin leading to an onset of diabetes in the early stages of pancreatic cancer.

You may have diabetes if you have low energy, pass more urine than normal and feel extremely thirsty.

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