Spotting the Initial Warning Signs for Pancreatic Cancer
What is the first red flag sign of pancreatic cancer? What other symptoms may follow?
Pancreatic cancer is often referred to as a "silent" disease because it tends to be asymptomatic in its early stages, and when symptoms do appear, they are often vague and can overlap with many other less serious conditions. However, one of the first signs or red flags that may be associated with pancreatic cancer is often painless jaundice.
Jaundice is a condition where the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow due to a buildup of bilirubin in the body. In pancreatic cancer, a tumour in the head of the pancreas can block the bile duct, which can lead to this symptom. Other signs and symptoms that may develop as pancreatic cancer progresses include abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, back pain, digestive problems, and new-onset diabetes.
How advanced is the disease when symptoms start to occur?
Pancreatic cancer symptoms typically begin to occur when the cancer has reached a more advanced stage. This is one of the challenging aspects of pancreatic cancer, as it tends to be asymptomatic in its early stages when it is most treatable. The specific stage at which symptoms appear can vary from person to person, but in many cases, symptoms become noticeable when the cancer has already progressed.
Could symptoms be mistaken for less serious condition?
Yes, symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be mistaken for less serious conditions or other medical issues because they are often vague and non-specific. Many of the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer can overlap with those of other gastrointestinal or digestive disorders, and they may not immediately raise suspicion of cancer. Some of the symptoms that can be confused with less serious conditions include abdominal pain, jaundice, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, back pain and digestive problems.
When should you see a GP?
It's important to note that symptoms can be caused by many other non-cancerous conditions as well, so experiencing any of them does not necessarily mean you have pancreatic cancer. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing persistent or concerning symptoms, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. Early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer can significantly improve outcomes.