8 Myths & Facts About Early Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is dangerous because it often goes undetected until it’s advanced and difficult to treat. Located deep inside the abdomen, the pancreas produces insulin. More than 95% of pancreatic cancer is the adenocarcinoma type. While this type is more common, the location of the tumors are more difficult to diagnose. Tumors at the “tail” of the pancreas are called endocrine tumors. More common tumors are found at the “head” of the pancreas. Early warning signs are symptoms that can occur together, helping patients to realize that they need to see a doctor. Because only four percent of patients with pancreatic cancer live beyond five years, it is essential that the illness is caught as soon as possible. Here are valuable myths and facts patients should know regarding the early warning sings of pancreatic cancer.

8 Active Myths | Suggest a Myth
FACT: The abdominal pain associated with pancreatic cancer is more of a gnawing pain that radiates toward the back.

If the pain goes away when patients lean forward, they may want to get screened for pancreatic cancer.

FACT: A lack of appetite could indicate the presence of a pancreatic tumor.

Recent research shows that patients experienced a lack of appetite six to eight months before tumors were found in the pancreas. Patients could also feel full after eating very little.

FACT: Sudden-onset diabetes may indicate the presence of a pancreatic tumor.

The Mayo Clinic recently published findings that show more than 40 percent of patients with this form of cancer had been diagnosed with diabetes within a year of a cancer diagnosis.

FACT: Stools will look alarmingly different for patients with pancreatic tumors,

The tumors can prevent digestive enzymes from getting to the intestines. Patients are then unable to digest fatty foods, leading to pale, floating, and stinky “floaters.” Dark and tarry stools are also a symptom of pancreatic tumors.

MYTH: A disgust for food only happens if patients receive treatment for pancreatic cancer.

While chemotherapy can cause a loss of taste of certain foods, so can the presence of a tumor in the pancreas. Researchers have found that patients lose the taste for coffee and wine, and the smell of these items leads to nausea.

MYTH: Weight loss only happens when cancer has advanced.

Weight loss is not always a sign that cancer has advanced. For those at risk for pancreatic cancer, it could mean that tumors are blocking pancreatic enzymes. This causes fat to pass through the intestines undigested, leading to weight loss.

MYTH: Jaundice only happens to newborn babies, not patients with pancreatic cancer.

Tumors of varying sizes can block the bile duct in the pancreas. This causes the bile to build up, resulting in the yellowing of the eyes and skin.

MYTH: Jaundice only involves yellowing skin and eyes.

A little-known symptom of jaundice is itchy feet and hands. If this happens in conjunction with other symptoms, patients should see a doctor.