Pancreatic cancer is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas, a large gland that’s part of the digestive system. As is the case with all cancers, the early pancreatic cancer is picked up, the greater the effectiveness of treatment. It is therefore imperative to act on any warning signs as soon they emerge.
- Pancreatic cancer symptoms: Pain in this part of the body is a sign
Unfortunately, a tumour in the pancreas does not usually cause any symptoms in the early stages, which can make it difficult to diagnose, according to the NHS.
There are a number or reporting warning signs, however.
One symptom to watch out for is pain in the back or stomach area that is often worse when lying down, says the health body.
According to Cancer Research UK, the pain may be slightly alleviated when sitting up.
In addition to lying down, the pain may feel worse after eating, notes the charity.
How can I tell the pain is related to pancreatic cancer?
“People describe it as a dull pain that feels as if it is boring into you. It can begin in the stomach area and spread around to the back,” it explains.
Other possible symptoms to watch out for:
- Pain in the back or stomach area – which may come and go at first and is often worse when lying down or after eating
- Unexpected weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) – it also may cause dark yellow or orange pee, pale-coloured poo and itchy skin
- Other possible symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- Feeling sick and being sick
- Changes in bowel movements (diarrhoea or constipation)
- Fever and shivering
- Blood clots
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“It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by many different conditions and are not usually the result of cancer,” says the NHS.
But you should contact a GP if you’re concerned or these symptoms start suddenly, advises the health body.
It is important to note that you may also develop symptoms of diabetes if you have pancreatic cancer.
As the NHS explains, this is because the tumour can stop the pancreas producing insulin as it normally would.
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Am I at risk?
According to Cancer Research UK, doctors don’t know what causes most pancreatic cancers, but there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it.
One risk factor you cannot change is age, with almost half of all new cases diagnosed in people aged 75 and over, notes the charity.
There are a number of lifestyle factors that may increase your risk of developing cancer, however.
The gravest risk factor is smoking.
A large Cancer Research UK study looking at lifestyle factors found that nearly one in three pancreatic cancers may be linked to smoking.
Research has shown that exposure to second hand smoke doesn’t increase your risk of pancreatic cancer, however.
Another unhealthy lifestyle habit that may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer is long term heavy drinking.
Research has found the risk to be higher in people who drink more than six units of alcohol a day compared to those who drink less than six units.
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