Pancreatic cancer is a serious illness that can be hard to diagnose. This is because there are no obvious symptoms or signs of the disease in its early stages, and pancreatic cancer often doesn’t have any symptoms at all until it has reached an advanced stage. If you are worried about your health, it’s important to learn about these five red flags that might indicate your cancer has spread:
Weight loss is one of the most common signs of pancreatic cancer. If you are losing weight, you should see a doctor right away.
For men, lose 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in 6 months; for women, lose 5 pounds (2.3kg) in 3 months; or if your weight drops by 10% or more within 6 months without trying to do so
Pain in the upper abdomen or back
Pain in the upper abdomen or back
Swelling of your feet and legs
Tiredness and weakness
Nausea and vomiting, which may occur a few days after chemotherapy treatment starts. This can happen with or without pain.
Changes in appetite, digestion and bowel movements
If you have changes in your appetite, digestion and bowel movements, it may be a sign that pancreatic cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The following are some examples of these symptoms:
- Decreased appetite. If you’re not feeling like eating much, it could be that the cancer is causing nausea or vomiting. Or perhaps there are other factors involved such as pain or difficulty swallowing?
- Gas and indigestion. If you have excess gas or indigestion after eating, it could indicate that food isn’t being digested properly due to an obstruction in one of the digestive organs (stomach and intestines).
- Constipation or diarrhea. If your stools become hard and dry with little mucus (hard stool), this may indicate that there’s a blockage somewhere along your digestive tract—such as the small intestine where nutrients get absorbed into blood vessels—or there might even be some bleeding inside those organs! Either way it would require further investigation by your doctor before any definitive conclusions can be drawn about whether your condition warrants treatment with chemotherapy drugs like Avastin®
Itching is a common symptom of pancreatic cancer. It can also be caused by many other conditions and diseases, including liver disease, kidney disease, hepatitis C and diabetes. In fact, itching is a common symptom of most chronic illnesses.
But just because you itch doesn’t mean you have pancreatic cancer! Itchy skin is not a reliable indicator of pancreatic cancer or any other type of cancer — especially if there are no other symptoms that would indicate it’s malignant.
Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
If you are experiencing jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. This symptom can be caused by a number of conditions, including cancer.
Jaundice is most often associated with liver disease, but it can also be caused by other conditions such as pancreatic cancer—hence why this is one of our red flags. Jaundice is caused when the body cannot break down bilirubin due to an obstruction in your bile ducts or blockage in your liver cells. As bilirubin builds up in the blood stream, it turns your skin and whites of your eyes orange-yellow in color.
These are some signs that pancreatic cancer might have spread.
Pancreatic cancer is a very serious disease, but there are several signs that can be caused by other things. If you have any of these symptoms and they don’t go away, see your doctor.
- Pain in your belly or back (abdomen)
- Chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds* Jaundice — yellowing of the skin and whites of your eyes
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the disease from spreading.