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Warning signs of pancreatic cancer

Frequent abdominal pain accompanied by loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, yellow eyes, yellow skin … you can have pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancers are malignant lesions arising from any component of pancreatic tissue, including exocrine pancreatic tissue cells, pancreatic endocrine cells (islets of Langerhans), and connecting pancreatic tissue cells of the pancreas. More than 95% of pancreatic cancers originate from exocrine pancreatic tissue (including pancreatic ductal epithelial cells, “acinar” cells, germ cells, etc.), of which approximately 85% derive from ductal epithelial cells. The remaining cancer very rarely arises from the endocrine cells of the pancreas and connective tissue.

Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas located in the lower part of the stomach. The cells of the pancreas start to multiply out of control and lead to a cancerous tumor. Pancreatic cancer can interfere with two main functions of the pancreas: the secretion of enzymes that aid digestion and the secretion of insulin to help lower blood sugar. The disease usually affects people over the age of 45. Young people are also at risk.

The most common symptom of pancreatic cancer is abdominal pain. It usually begins to appear about 1 to 2 months before the disease is detected and gradually increases with the progression of the disease, but at first it is usually only transient pain in the epigastrium, it is therefore easy to confuse it with gastritis. Pain usually begins in the epigastrium and as the disease progresses it often spreads to the sides and / or back. The pain may be intermittent but is often worse after eating or lying on the back, causing the patient to lie in a curled position for pain relief. Back pain is more common when the tumor is located in the body or tail of the pancreas rather than in the head of the pancreas.

Symptoms of early pancreatic cancer are often poor. When the disease is widespread, the clinical symptoms are quite diverse, varying depending on the location of the tumor and the extent of its spread. According to statistics, 60-70% of tumors are located in the head of the pancreas, 20-25% are located in the body / tail of the pancreas, and a small percentage of tumors occupy the entire volume of the pancreas.

According to Boldsky, pancreatic cancer is a silent disease because it attacks and grows very quietly. Most people do not detect the first signs and symptoms, until they see something abnormal in the body, the disease is already at an advanced stage, difficult to treat. It ranks among the major cancers with the highest death rate. If the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are caught early, the patient has every chance of receiving effective treatment.

Here are the early signs of pancreatic cancer that you shouldn’t ignore.

Abdominal and lower back pain

It is one of the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer. At first, you will feel a sharp pain in your upper abdomen, and the pain will gradually spread to your back.

Yellow skin or eyes

It is common for people with pancreatic cancer to experience jaundice. Jaundice can be itchy in the limbs, mainly the palms and soles of the feet. The reason is that cancer cells block the bile ducts, causing bile to build up in the liver.

Sudden weight loss

It is one of the notable symptoms of pancreatic cancer. You lose weight as the tumor spreads to other organs and affects how it works, leading to poor digestion of nutrients and loss of appetite. One of the obvious symptoms of pancreatic cancer is sudden weight loss.

Nausea and vomiting

Tumor growth can block parts of the digestive tract and affect the digestive process, leading to nausea and vomiting.

Urine color change

For people with pancreatic cancer, the color of urine may turn orange or brown. The reason is that tumor growth affects the bile, resulting in excess bilirubin in the body. It can get into the urine and make it darker.

Pale stool color

You will see pale, fragrant stools because the growing tumor is preventing the pancreas from producing digestive enzymes. Cancer cells prevent the digestion of fatty foods, causing bloating, constipation, pale stools …


The presence of a tumor can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating. These symptoms occur when the pancreas begins to put pressure on the abdomen and stomach. Bloating is one of the first signs of pancreatic cancer.

Doesn’t taste good

People with pancreatic cancer tend to have less appetite and feel full despite eating very little. The growth of the tumor puts pressure on the small intestine and thus blocks the digestive tract, causing you to lose your appetite.

Presence of blood clots

In some cases, the first clue of pancreatic cancer is blood clots in the large veins, also called deep vein thrombosis or DVT, which often appear in the legs. This phenomenon causes symptoms of pain, swelling, redness and warmth in the legs.

Sometimes a piece of the blood clot that breaks off can travel to the lungs, causing shortness of breath, chest pain, known as pulmonary embolism or PE.


Pancreatic cancer can cause diabetes with symptoms of thirst, hunger, and frequent urination, as the disease destroys insulin-producing cells. However, this is a rare symptom of pancreatic cancer, in some cases the disease only changes blood sugar levels, does not constitute diabetes and can be detected by blood tests.

Gallbladder and swelling of the liver

If the cancer blocks the gallbladder, bile will build up, causing the gallbladder to enlarge. This sign can be detected by doctors during a physical exam by palpating the right abdomen under the rib cage or by imaging methods. Symptoms of hepatomegaly appear when cancer has spread to that part. The detection method is similar to examining the gallbladder.

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