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This is Usually the First Symptom of Pancreatic Cancer, Say Experts

Learn how to recognize the signs.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The Mayo Clinic states that "Pancreatic cancer is seldom detected at its early stages when it's most curable. This is because it often doesn't cause symptoms until after it has spread to other organs." Per the National Cancer Institute, "More than 80% of the time, people are not diagnosed with pancreatic cancer until after it's invaded nearby tissues or spread to other organs. And, overall, only about 10% of people with pancreatic cancer will be alive 5 years after their diagnosis. But about 40% of people diagnosed before their cancer has spread outside the pancreas will be alive after 5 years, highlighting the importance of early detection. To increase the chances to beat this disease earlier detection is therefor pertinent. What are the first symptoms of this terrible disease?


Abdomen or Back Pain

Young woman suffering pain at bedroom

Early pancreatic cancer symptoms are usually vague, and include abdomen and back pain. The pancreas sits deep in the abdomen and tumors may be hard to detect. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas — an organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach. Your pancreas releases enzymes that aid digestion and produces hormones that help manage your blood sugar."



Woman rubbing her eyes.

A slight yellowing of your skin tone or eyes could be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer. "Jaundice is caused by the buildup of bilirubin, a component of bile produced by the liver. It is also a symptom of pancreatic cancer. This can occur when a tumor blocks the bile duct connecting the pancreas to the liver. Elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood not only cause a yellowing of the skin and eyes, but can also cause itchy skin, dark urine and light or clay-colored stools," the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network informs.


New On-Set Diabetes

Senior woman checking her blood glucose level.

"An important job of the pancreas is to produce insulin. This hormone controls the amount of sugar in the blood by moving it into cells, where it can be used by the body for energy," the National Cancer Institute explains. The Institute says, "in some people, diabetes can rapidly develop because of a problem in the pancreas, instead of the diabetes causing damage to the pancreas in the long run. These problems can include chronic inflammation of the pancreas, cystic fibrosis, and pancreatic cancer." So, keep an eye on these sudden changes.


Changes in Stool


"Poo may be large, smell horrible, float and can be difficult to flush down the toilet. This is caused by fat in the poo. It happens if pancreatic cancer has affected your digestion, so that fat in your food isn't digested properly," Pancreatic Cancer UK clarifies. If you feel concerned, you can have your stool tested.


Family History

Family reunion

A family history of pancreatic cancer is a risk factor. It's generally a good idea to find out about your own family health history if you're able to.

The Mayo Clinic suggests considering "meeting with a genetic counselor if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer. He or she can review your family health history with you and determine whether you might benefit from a genetic test to understand your risk of pancreatic cancer or other cancers."

Other risk factors include, smoking, obesity, and long-standing diabetes.

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