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Early Warning Signs You Have "Deadly" Cancer, Say Experts

It's important to be aware of the early signs.

Pancreatic cancer has the dubious distinction of being the most deadly cancer there is. The five-year survival rate is about 7%. About 50,000 people will contract pancreatic cancer in the next year, and nearly all of them will die. (Jeopardy host Alex Trebek and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg were prominent victims of the disease in recent years.) Part of the reason pancreatic cancer is so deadly is that routine screening tests don't exist; the disease is often advanced by the time it's discovered. That's why it's important to be aware of the early warning signs of pancreatic cancer. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Nausea or Vomiting After Eating Fatty Foods

young woman with nausea in all denim outfit sitting on bed
Shutterstock / New Africa

If you feel nauseous or vomit after eating fatty foods, it could be another sign that a pancreatic tumor might be preventing the body from digesting fat. Pancreatic tumors can cause a partial blockage of the digestive tract, causing heartburn, queasiness or vomiting. If it happens to you repeatedly, seek advice from your healthcare provider.


Back Pain

young woman sitting in bed with back ache or kidney pain
Shutterstock / Nattakorn_Maneerat

Pain that radiates toward the back can have several causes; most of them aren't serious. But this can also be a sign of pancreatic cancer, says the American Cancer Society. A tumor that starts in the pancreas can press on neighboring organs or affect nerves surrounding the pancreas, causing back pain.

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Jaundice patient with yellowish discoloration of skin in comparison with Normal Skin color.

A yellowing of the skin or eyes, jaundice happens when bilirubin, a component of bile, builds up in the blood. Bile travels from the gallbladder through the common bile duct, which passes through the pancreas. If a tumor is growing in the head of the pancreas, it may obstruct the bile duct and flow of bile, and jaundice may result. 


Light-Colored or Oily Stools

woman hand flush toilet after using

The pancreas produces enzymes that help the body digest fat. Pancreatic cancer can disrupt that. The result can be oily or floating stools, a cue that your body isn't breaking down dietary fat properly. Bile and bilirubin turn waste brown, but if bile ducts are blocked by a tumor, stools may be lighter-colored, even clay-hued or gray.

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Doctor checking blood sugar level with glucometer. Treatment of diabetes concept.

If you suddenly develop type 2 diabetes even though you're at a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet, it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer. That's because the pancreas produces insulin, which regulates blood sugar. A tumor can interrupt that process, potentially causing diabetes. Pancreatic cancer can also be the reason people who previously had well-controlled diabetes suddenly find the condition difficult to manage. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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